Features I by I 23.05.17

Singles Club: Vince Staples makes a splash with ‘Big Fish’ while Liam Payne’s one direction is down

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, One Direction’s Liam Payne goes hip-hop with ‘Strip That Down’, which features Migos main man Quavo, a writing credit from Ed Sheeran and a beat suspiciously similar to YG’s ‘Why You Always Hatin’. There’s also new Vince Staples, whose new album inches closer with the release of new track ‘Big Fish’.

Also in the mix this week – new Mogwai, new FlyLo, a Kaytranada and Chance The Rapper loosie and something new from Selena Gomez, whose Talking Heads sample in new single ‘Bar Liar’ comes with a thumbs up from David Byrne. But will it get the thumbs up from the FACT reviewers? Let’s find out…

Liam Payne featuring Quavo – ‘Strip That Down’

Chal Ravens: Isn’t it just the cutest thing when reedy-voiced British pop stars decide they’re all about US hip-hop from five years ago? The production so clapped, the delivery so listless… it’s like one of those weird Spotify tracks that turns out to be a karaoke version of the Tyga track you were (for some reason) searching for. I know Liam’s got a sprog to feed now but this is not exactly ‘Fight For This Love’ – and he obviously knows it, seeing as he’s chosen to bury the bad news during Worldwide Harry Styles Appreciation Week. (2)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: This feels a lot like a slightly cooler Blue defined by one member (probably Duncan). Bless Liam’s heart, but it doesn’t work. Quavo glides in, clocks in his card and swiftly clocks out in the same movement. (4)

Carl Anka: How did this happen then? The smart bass line. The Blue Peter-friendly lyrics. Sodding Quavo! The subtle but not subtle reminder 1D broke up and no one has really addressed it. Is Liam Payne good? I’m confused. (7)

Jibril Yassin: If Liam is going down Zayn and Harry’s footsteps in actually doing the solo thing (in comparison to Niall or Louis, who seem happy treating their solo excursions as one-offs), somebody needs to keep him – and more importantly, Ed Sheeran – as far away from DJ Mustard as possible. (2)

Haley Potiker: I can’t listen to this without being overwhelmed by fear for the Migos. Are they going to go the way of One Direction? Why can’t we keep Quavo, Takeoff and Offset together – and away from Katy Perry? (7)

Tayyab Amin: The only way I can really enjoy this is if I close my eyes at where it says “Liam Payne” and visualise the ghostly remains of mid-00s Justin Timberlake as the track’s rightful singer. Thing is it still lacks a Timbaland or Neptunes and fat-free Mustard just ain’t gonna cut it. “You know I used to be in 1D” is the wettest brag of all time because he’s the type of ex-boybander that actually has to inform people about it. Quavo might be on the same track but you can be damn sure he ain’t in the same club, which is all you need to know about a track defined by this dissonance. (5)


Vince Staples – ‘Big Fish’

Carl Anka:  This isn’t ‘Norf Norf’ levels of greatness (what is?), but brings the same claustrophobic ‘nod your head while looking like someone got vinegar on your top lip’ aesthetic that’s made Vince one of the hardest out there. Vince is only five foot eight, but no one bangs harder at the low post than him. (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Vince Staples makes a lot of good music, but aside from the times I’ve seen ‘Norf Norf’ come on and confuse people in a club, he doesn’t have a lot of straight-up bangers. At least now we have ‘Big Fish’, a song that cheekily mentions E-40 in an extended metaphor (“quarterbackin’ like I’m 40 Water”) while revealing a similarity between the two: faced with even the most quote-unquote conventional of rap beats, they will grapple with it, holding true to their mission in refusing to rap by the numbers. (7)

Chal Ravens: Check Vince out in his matching Stone Island! Very #grime, bbz. This is solid modern West Coast fare with a cheesy hook (Juicy J has thousands of these in a safe somewhere) and clean verses – feels like a radio grab to me, and maybe not Vince’s natural territory. His dense, slurred delivery is in direct opposition to all that, as if he’s not quite ready to hit the mainstream yet, but he probably needn’t worry. Tracks like this aren’t going to be his legacy. (5)

Jibril Yassin: There’s something about juxtaposing Juicy J’s smash of a hook between Vince Staples’ elastic, paranoid delivery to make this feel more jubilant than it ought to. Speaking of elastic, ‘Big Fish’ carries plenty of West Coast bounce; its sparse and boomy feel amplifying Vince’s rewrite of the raps-to-riches origin tale into something closer to weary. (8)

Haley Potiker: Summertime 06 was steely, gritty, and industrial. ‘Big Fish’ suggests that his follow-up will fold in more electronic elements. The Juicy J sample is perfect. (9)

Tayyab Amin: Have you noticed how Vince Staples becomes an unstoppable force as soon as he opens his mouth and touches mic? You let him start rapping and it’s game over for everyone else. Whether his verses are stark or condensed, his flow never lets up and he makes sure the beat never stops knockin’ too. ‘Big Fish’ is more proof that yes, he really is that good. (8)


Selena Gomez – ‘Bad Liar’

Carl Anka: Selena you genius. This will be on the soundtrack of the inevitable Spider-Man reboot when the time comes. (7)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: One Talking Heads interpolation and suddenly the media outlets will open up to Ms Gomez, even when she’s been responsible for some mighty good pop tuneage over the past years, particularly the A$AP Rocky-less version of ‘Good For You’. ‘Bad Liar’ is a pretty good song but it’s not upending ‘Good For You’. (6)

Chal Ravens: Right, in fairness, the ‘Psycho Killer’ riff is barely even interpolated, so let’s not go all “WHAT WILL PROFESSOR BYRNE THINK ABOUT THIS” before we’ve even started. Yes, those are technically the notes, played on bass, but it’s only three notes, they’re just hanging out there in the background, they’re not the main draw. But as for the rest of it, I wouldn’t be surprised if Gomez actually was a big Talking Heads fan because ‘Bad Liar’ has that same pop-music-but-different attitude – clever but simple and catchy – that drove the band’s MTV-era success. Quite good! (7)

Jibril Yassin: Turns out Selena and a Tina Weymouth bass line actually make a lot of sense together. Instead of gunning for a big chorus, ‘Bad Liar’ just simmers. Selena seems to be making the most of her vocals here – the way she invokes the Battle of Troy and gets her words sounding like they’re just casually tripping over themselves. Even the strained vocals near the end don’t feel too out of place. We should enjoy this as much as we can before this gets tapped to feature in every rom-com film trailer ad nauseum. (7)

Haley Potiker: At least it’s not Rihanna karaoke anymore. (6)

Tayyab Amin: I’m totally here for Selena’s breathless stream of consciousness approach here. “In my room there’s a king-size space, bigger than it used to be/If you want you can rent that place, call me an amenity” she sings, which I guess just must be how lyricism goes for the Airbnb generation. (6)


Mogwai – ‘Coolverine’

Chal Ravens: I’m of the opinion that Mogwai’s best recent work was their soundtrack for Atomic, the brilliant abstract documentary about nuclear power, where they let go of any commitment to guitars and drums in favour of some incredible electronic moodscaping that brought a few tears to the eye. I kinda wish they’d continued down that path, further towards ambience and noise, but it sounds like the new album will be more drummy and rocky and groovy than that. Which is okay, but ‘Coolverine’ is not their most exciting iteration of that idea to date. (6)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: I may be the wrong audience for this, bearing in mind I think that the best thing Mogwai ever did was describe a song in the NME as sounding like “a pissed-off boyfriend waiting in Topshop for his girlfriend”. But this is Another Mogwai Song. (5)

Carl Anka: For a song named after a Wu Tang clan C-Lister (probably), this is decidedly lacking teeth. All build, very little meaningful bluster. (6)

Haley Potiker: This sounds like it will make the soundtrack of the new cool-kid indie movie. (6)

Jibril Yassin: Give this song an edit and you’ve got the perfect theme song for an American cop drama. (5)


Flying Lotus – ‘Night Grows Pale’

Carl Anka: This is such a delicate wonder. Loads going on here, but rather than get in the way, conflicting sounds all intertwine to make a cascading waterfall of lovely. (8)

Chal Ravens: Flying Lotus is bad, kids. Bad as in bad, and even if he hadn’t spent the past few years making bad films and giving out his bad opinions all over the internet, his music has also got really bad. This actually sounds like an old beat dug up from a random hard drive he’s had lying around for 10 years, but not only is it quite boring, it samples Queen, who are also bad. Oh well! (2)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: When FlyLo can just flip a sample and have fun without being grounded by an album-length concept, the ease of his craft really amazes you. He genuinely admires music. This is a loose, something that’s not meant to be earth-shattering – just an arm curl from a gym beast. (6)

Jibril Yassin: After the cacophony that was You’re Dead!, it’s thrilling to hear FlyLo remind us how he made his calling card – taking a Queen bit and flipping it into a sublime and otherworldly cut with a head-bopping groove. This is no fully fleshed-out single, but even a FlyLo throwaway is better than most people’s entire discographies, so I’ll take it. (8)

Haley Potiker: For the past few years, FlyLo’s biggest impact had come from behind the scenes – with his work on Thundercat’s solo music and on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly. This is an admirable step back into the spotlight, all atmosphere and bubbling dread. (7)

Tayyab Amin: It might simply be warmth of familiarity but FlyLo’s drums always seem to lay down such a welcoming groove. Those Queen harmonies are so lush and precious over the beat’s nocturnal sparkle and this one’s out in perfect time for winter in the southern hemisphere. (7)


Chance the Rapper and Kaytranada – ‘And They Say’

Jibril Yassin: A mish-mash of hazy feel-good soul courtesy of Kaytranada, seemingly now in a different headspace than 99.9% suggested, and Chance the Rapper, who mercifully holds back on the obnoxious and delivers. (6)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: This is the kind of loosie that you toss out during a DJ set, but the presence of one of hip-hop’s biggest stars gives it a fair amount of pep. It’s warm, sneakily addictive and a touch overproduced, perhaps even corny – it’s Chance. (6)

Carl Anka: It’s Chance the Rapper and Kaytranada. You knew this was going to be good. You knew it’d put a spring in your step. You knew it was going to be thrown in your face by a “real” Chance fan. You knew the song would be way too fun to get wound up either way. (8)

Tayyab Amin: I don’t know if Chance and Kaytranada’s energies match up on this one. Chance almost sounds frustrated with such a muted melody backing up his kineticism. The instrumental would be a fine cut on its own, on some solo beats record or something, but the chorus harmonies feel like they’ve been shoehorned in from another track. It feels oddly uncanonical. (6)

Chal Ravens: Further evidence that Chance is the rap game Peter Pan, because what person over the age of 12 says “nye-nye-nye-nye-nyerrrr” instead of “nah-nah-nah-nah-nahhh”? I worry that if I get to the end of this track I’ll have spoiled my dinner. (5)

Haley Potiker: Kaytranada’s recent collaborative EP with Compton rapper Buddy, Ocean and Montana is one of the best collections of rap beats the Montreal-bred producer has ever assembled. Chance is tapping in at the right time, especially if he wants to keep filling arenas in the wake of Coloring Book. (7)


Final scores:

Vince Staples – ‘Big Fish’ (7.5)
Selena Gomez – ‘Bad Liar’ (6.6)
Chance The Rapper and Kaytranada – ‘And They Say’ (6.4)
Flying Lotus – ‘Night Grows Pale’ (6.3)
Mogwai – ‘Coolverine’ (5.6)
Liam Payne featuring Quavo – ‘Strip That Down’ (4.4)



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