Features I by I 18.07.17

Singles Club: Lana Del Rey can’t cure her summertime sadness while Chance and Young Thug drop ‘Big B’s’

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, Lana Del Rey teams up with A$AP Rocky and Playboi Carti for some hip-hop-infused summertime sadness and Chance the Rapper and Young Thug bring out the best in each other for an easy listening loosie.

Elsewhere, E.M.M.A’s Kanye-inspired roller is on fighting form, Nine Inch Nails are the undisputed overlords of filmic synth-rock, while Selena Gomez and Gucci Mane lack chemistry. Here’s what our reviewers made of the week’s biggest singles.

Lana Del Rey – ‘Summer Bummer’ feat. A$AP Rocky and Playboi Carti

Al Horner: It’s a wonder it’s taken this long for Lana to call a song ‘Summer Bummer’. This is an artist, after all, whose music has seemed to embody that very phrase since tearing to fame six years ago – her persona this listless, glamorous refugee from a Sofia Copolla movie, whose sadness even California’s infinite sunshine can’t seem to bleach out. ‘Summer Bummer’ is worth the wait: a gliding hip-hop excursion built on desperately sad piano chords, whose guests fare better than normal on LDR songs: The Weeknd’s appearance on ‘Lust For Life’ jarred ‘cos the world Lana builds on record is so highly stylized, and Abel felt airlifted in. Rocky and Playboi are smartly restrained here though, complementing Lana’s latest summertime sadness perfectly. (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Well, this is a hot mess, but at least it’s a hot mess that knocks ever so slightly. (5)

Carl Anka: It’s the cool music couple from everyone’s Tumblr page in 2010! It’s Lana Del Rey once again propping herself up with much cooler artists hoping it rubs off on her! It’s perfectly serviceable! (6)

Tayyab Amin: The more I listen to this one, the deeper I lose myself in it. The chorus turn up is muted in its humid delirium, allowing the bass drop to provide that much more impact. Lana Del Rey’s background wailing and Playboi Carti’s incessant peppering of sludgy what ad-libs put an enthrallingly eerie spin on a tune that both builds on mixtape-era Weeknd and takes massive liberties with Travi$ Scott’s sound. I really want to hear more Carti over harpsichord but the people are here for Lana Del Rocky and this will definitely do. (9)


Chance the Rapper feat. Young Thug – ‘Big B’s’

Carl Anka: Remember when someone first told you about how salt enhances the taste of chocolate milk and you thought it was BS? This is the harsh Young Thug enhancing the lovely taste of Chance the Rapper. Bump it. (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: I will admit to my pettiness here and say that I was ready to hate this – Chance has always veered between overly corny and occasionally transcendent, and the last few weeks of him claiming to rescue SoundCloud, apologizing to beyond-his-prime genius Dr. Dre for his opinions, and pressuring MTV News to pull criticism of his music have tipped the scales. But I can’t deny the easy joy of hearing two croaked, melody-driven young voices boogieing out over a solid, bass-heavy mid-‘00s album-track Hammond organ bounce. (7)

Tayyab Amin: This beat has SoundCloud cut stamped all over it – Chance is sounding like a guest on his own track and for the most part it pales in comparison to anything on Beautiful Thugger Girls. Young Thug’s first verse is pretty nonchalant, though Thug’s casual reeling off of bars does tend to be better than 95% of other rappers’ efforts. When he gets to his second verse however, he goes beyond blitheness to that lazy Super Saiyan place only he can go, flowing with his idiosyncratic, near-unintelligible eccentricities. He blurts “Mama just sent me a picture, got Indian in my family through my goddamn nana” and you know he’s in his zone when he’s coming out with irreverent stream of consciousness rap. (7)

Al Horner: When Chance suggested he was going to save SoundCloud, the owners of the struggling streaming service – who, by the way, I can’t stop picturing as an assortment of real life John Ralphios and Tom Haverfords from Parks and Recreation, Entertainment 720-ing their way to ruin – were probably hoping for more than this passable but fairly forgettable Thugger collab. The track, which premiered on SoundCloud last week, bears more of the Atlanta rapper’s stamp than Chano’s, which is fine, but ‘Big B’s’ is a C+ tops. (6)


E.M.M.A – ‘Magna Kanye’

Carl Anka: All build up, no pay off. There’s only so far one can go with minimal club music before your brain eventually goes “there’s something missing here”. For a song seemingly inspired by Kanye, you can’t see him ever rapping over it. (6)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: The Kanye sample that holds down this instrumental piece from the London-based beatmaker is an all-timer. It feels like an audio clip that you can and will hear again for many years, pointing towards ambitions foolhardy and justified and human behaviours both holy and dismal. And in its subtle power, it diminishes ‘Magna Kanye’ for the warmed-over trap instrumental it is, neither foolhardy or justified in any ambition, neither holy or dismal. (3)

Tayyab Amin: Another of many, many E.M.M.A. beats weighted to perfection. She strikes such an incisive balance of drums, atmospherics and melody on this one, instilling an almost tangible, lifelike quality in the tune that would make it perfect for soundtracks. It’s all about the chimes, sounding as pristine as Doctor Strange’s CGI and ideal for any time you might pass through the mirror dimensions. (8)

Al Horner: A beat so big you could probably see it from space. True to the Yeezy sample (“this is my fight, this is my battle”) that drifts in and out of this huge opening track from her new EP LA Mermaid, ‘Magna Kanye’ feels like fight music: the kind of intense adrenaline-raiser you’d throw on to calm the butterflies in your stomach before going to war a thousand years into the future. The rising producer says she penned it while thinking about Kanye and the need to fight for your creative vision. The result’s an instrumental as massive as its inspiration’s famously Godzilla-sized ego, but with a sound and identity that’s 100% E.M.M.A. Go cop LA Mermaid now. (8)


Selena Gomez – ‘Fetish’ feat. Gucci Mane

Carl Anka: First we get Talking Heads samples, now we get Guwop? Selena Gomez is out here making MOVES. Like ‘Bad Liar’, this is some decadent lines being delivered over some mellow yellow beats. Into it. (7)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: In this, the year of the mainstream Gucci guest verse, we have allowed East Atlanta Santa to return to his sneering, quietly haughty best, the tone in his voice intrigued, seduced and disgusted at the same time. It’s the opposite of his lovely, heartfelt appearance on a middling Fifth Harmony song a few weeks back, and even though it’s cut short and features really no classic quotables, it’s nice to hear Selena Gomez (the secretly underrated pop artist she is) pulling that vintage Gucci tone out. (7)

Tayyab Amin: For some reason I’m really happy for Selena Gomez to continue with her middling, unremarkable and generally quite journeyman brand of R&B. There’s something satisfying about knowing she’s here to tick the core boxes and Gucci Mane very much deserves that guest rapper cheque. Even the woeful, awful concept for the song is a little bit affirming with its total disregard for songwriting sense in favour of being an easy tune to enjoy for the summer and never revisit after. (5)

Al Horner: Selena’s dating The Weeknd, and this sounds like a production that was meant for him, rather than the pop killer whose last Talking Heads-sampling single ‘Bad Liar’ was infinitely more interesting and individual than this. What’s my safe word for this? (4)


Nine Inch Nails – ‘Less Than’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Even after his move into prestige soundtrack ambient, thank God that sullen dad Trent still has a hold on making immersive pop music. The chorus on this is suitably huge. (7)

Carl Anka: Started doing the maths and can’t remember the last time NIN had a dud record. They’re always there, plugging away, creating lovely little rock songs that will play over the end credits of a so so action film you’ll watch on an airplane. Bless em. (7)

Tayyab Amin: I can sense NIN trying to bite, but all I’m feeling is pure gum. (5)

Al Horner: This is pretty much all I want from a NIN song in 2017, even if the guitar fuzz that announces its chorus is a little more clumsily deployed than I’d expect from a man whose film soundtracks have been so masterful in their use of dynamics. Also: goddamn, I want to play the video game in the track’s lyric vid, which is named after a supposed real life arcade game rumoured to have been a government-run psychology experiment with wild psychoactive effects on players. No wild psychoactive effects to report from listening to this, but Trent dun good. (7)


Final scores:

Lana Del Rey – ‘Summer Bummer’ feat. A$AP Rocky and Playboi Carti (7)
Chance the Rapper feat. Young Thug – ‘Big B’s’ (7)
Nine Inch Nails – ‘Less Than’ (6.5)
E.M.M.A – ‘Magna Kanye’ (6.25)
Selena Gomez – ‘Fetish’ feat. Gucci Mane (5.75)



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