Singles Club: Kelsey Lu’s ‘Shades of Blue’ is a summer jam for the tenderhearted

FACT Singles Club features a panel of writers rating and slating the biggest new tracks of the last seven days.

Singles Club is back and better than ever! This week, FACT poptimist fave Ariana Grande releases her first single since the terror attack at a Manchester stop on her 2017 tour. The track, ‘No Tears Left to Cry’, is somber but triumphant and even though it includes cringy lyrics like, “We’re way too fly to partake in all this hate / We out here vibin’, we vibin’, we vibin’” it packs a punch.

The panel also takes on two club music debuts: ‘Hunted’, the first single from Lotic’s upcoming very first full-length Power, as well as the glossy ‘Chin Up’ from Sharda, the premiere single from Murlo’s new label Coil Records. Cap it off with a double dose of North Carolina, as experimental cellist and FACT Rated emeritus Kelsey Lu and J. Cole, your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper that you love to hate, round out the bunch.

Ariana Grande – ‘No Tears Left to Cry’

Caroline Whiteley: Every new release of Ariana Grande’s gets an instant play from me. This is definitely a bop and I’m really loving the late ’90s aesthetics of the hook and her little MC-ing part. Sounds like the theme song to a kids spy movie. (8)

Jesse Bernard: This is the song you’re gonna hear everywhere this summer. You’re not gonna know who it’s by but secretly you’ll love it. (6)

Cameron Cook: Only one pop star could break the internet with a single tweeted tear emoji. Only one pop star could signal a substantial tonal shift in their discography by switching their hairstyle from a high ponytail to a low one. Apparently while I was caught up in the existential dread of winter 2018, Ariana Grande was preparing the comeback of the summer.

Perhaps the greatest achievement of ‘No Tears Left To Cry’ is that it manages to not shy away from the reason Ariana took a break in the first place – a goddamn mass murder at one of her concerts – without at any point sounding cloying or exploitative. At risk of sounding like a teenage hair and beauty YouTuber: I stan. (9)


Lotic – ‘Hunted’

Jesse Bernard: This is a lot for someone whose ears are used to hearing strong melodies, but I’m also intrigued enough by the basslines to keep an eye out for Power. (6.5)

Cameron Cook: Not too long ago I witnessed a Lotic DJ set at Berghain where they pulled off possibly the greatest hat-trick I’ve ever heard on a dancefloor: his own brilliant remix of Beyoncé’s ‘Formation’ into an a capella version of CupcakKe’s ‘Vagina’ followed by the straight-up radio edit of Amerie’s ‘1 Thing’. Anyone who has the cast-iron balls to play 2005’s Song of the Summer on the main floor of the world’s best-known techno club has earned my lifelong respect. It makes sense that Lotic’s studio material is as innovative, arresting and weirdly off-kilter as the rest of their musical identity. (7)

Caroline Whiteley: Choppy, deconstructed club sounds from the genre-hopping experimental Berlin producer. Love the layered vocal chorals on this one. (7)



Sharda – ‘Chin Up’

Cameron Cook: It’s so hard to make genre-hopping niche electronic music that doesn’t just sound like a showboating grab-bag of crazy, but Sharda can take house, garage, techno, acid… and I want to say, gabber?… and present it as a cohesive whole. That’s feat in itself. Also, to be honest, what reeled me in is that demonic keyboard line that sounds like a possessed slide whistle. (6.5)

Jesse Bernard: The piano melodies combined with the bassline on Sharda’s ‘Chin Up’ are exactly what I want to be hearing when I listen to garage in 2018. It’s my sonic definition of “here for a good time, not a long time” this summer. (8)

Caroline Whiteley: This track blends vocal elements from the Golden Age of House with an almost comically wacky bassline. An absolute banger in my book and I definitely hope to hear this out at the club at some point over the summer. (7)


Kelsey Lu – ‘Shades of Blue’

Caroline Whiteley: This one is a stunner. Lu’s voice really complements the simplicity of the lyrics and the production in the second half of the track takes its emotional intensity to another level. Anyone who’s going through a breakup should proceed with caution, ‘Shades Of Blue’ might just rip your heart out entirely. (9)

Cameron Cook: I enjoyed this, but it seems to be a little tame for what we’ve come to expect from Kelsey. Her more experimental tracks, using her cello more as an emotional vessel than a traditional instrument, kind of make a little bit more sense to me, but hey, I guess not everything needs to be psychologically wrought with pain and longing. (6)

Jesse Bernard: This is what I’m going to listen to in the park this summer while I regret not taking my hay fever tablets. (9)


J.Cole – ‘ATM’

Cameron Cook: J. Cole made yet another track about how absolute power corrupts absolutely, and it really begs the question that, in a post-DAMN. world, do we still need cautionary tales from conscious rappers reminding us of the perils of modern society? Greed is bad, call your moms, crack is wack, white lines don’t do it—all fine and well, but like Trump done BEEN in the White House at this point and if you’re not lighting the Rose Garden on fire with the white-hot anger of your bars at this point I don’t really know how excited you want me to get. (4)

Jesse Bernard: J. Cole represents how not to make it as a successful rapper, by today’s standards, yet still manages to remain a star. It’s also good to hear that he can have a laugh at the expense of mumble rappers, hip-hop’s biggest conversation-driver in 2018. But Jay-Z needs to give J. Cole some advice about switching up the formula because his same-old sound is getting tired. (7)

Caroline Whiteley: ‘ATM’ very literally addresses J. Cole’s relationship with money, which is rich considering this track basically shuffles between self-congratulatory displays of wealth and self-righteous advice. Though the video gave me a few chuckles, it would probably benefit from a bit of subtlety as well. (3)


Final scores:
Kelsey Lu – ‘Shades of Blue’ (8)

Ariana Grande – ‘No Tears Left to Cry’ (7.7)
Sharda – ‘Chin Up’ (7.2)
Lotic – ‘Hunted’ (6.8)
J. Cole – ‘ATM’ (4.7)

Cameron Cook is an American culture journalist currently residing in Berlin, Germany. He would go to the ends of the Earth for Kate Bush. Find him on Twitter.

Caroline Whiteley is freelance writer based in Berlin. Find her on Twitter.

Jesse Bernard is freelance music and culture journalist based in Brooklyn and London, still hotsteppin’ in a Nike Air sneaker. Find him on Twitter.

Read next: Kelsey Lu is the maverick cellist whose loop experiments have wooed Blood Orange and Solange



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