Singles Club: Deconstructed rap, weightless power ballads and Kanye, again

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

Just when you thought you could escape Kanye West, he pulls you right back in. His fingerprints are all over nearly half of the selections this week: first with production duties on Christina Aguilera’s most recent comeback single ‘Accelerate’ and by proxy, as we measure whether or not G.O.O.D. Music signee Valee has what it takes to make a huge crossover hit.

This week also finds new tracks from Sami Baha’s upcoming debut album set for release this summer via Planet Mu, as well as a new one from Tirzah and an epic collab from D∆WN and FACT fave Mumdance.

Sami Baha – ‘Thugs’ Feat. DJ Nate

Cameron Cook: When the charts are as saturated with trap as they are right now, it’s hard to make it seem innovative. This track takes just enough liberty with the well-worn formula to keep you on your toes (those keys straight out of The X-Files) and DJ Nate’s bars are sharp and toned instead of woozy and slurred. Not bad. (7)

Caroline Whiteley: Bring on the deconstructed club-rap fusion. I don’t drive but if I did I’d be blasting this in my car. (6)

Jesse Bernard: The repetitive and macabre synths and drum pattern on ‘Thugs’ isn’t alien to drill fans but with the vocals performed by DJ Nate, what could’ve sounded like UK drill instantly becomes a transatlantic affair. I’m very much here for it. (9)

Michelle Lhooq: Holy shit. Sounds like a Hollywood Hills house party dripping with strippers and stacks of Xanax. Shoutout to Planet Mu — how is Baha not fucking famous yet? To quote a SoundCloud commenter: “Here before 1 billion.” (8.5)


Valee – ‘Womp Womp’ Feat. Jeremih

Cameron Cook: There are few things I enjoy more than hip-hop that sounds like it was written for amusement park merry-go-rounds. This is one of those tracks that’s so catchy, you’ll be taking a shower five years from now and it will randomly pop in your head. Moreover, the line “I be the pussy drummer” made me actually LOL. (7.5)

Jesse Bernard: The bounciness of this Cássio-produced beat feels like it was made for the boisterous energy that Valee and Jeremih bring to the track. Rather than provide his staple falsetto hooks, it’s Jeremih’s rap drawl gives the track what it needs. (8)

Caroline Whiteley: Here’s a track that lives up to its name. There’s half-assed-ness here that just does nothing for me. Next. (3.5)

Michelle Lhooq: Everything has an elastic bounce on this track, from the way Jeremih and Valee stretch their vowels like latex to the rubbery bassline on Cássio’s beat. We’ll probably hear this one all summer — and it’s weirder than the average Top 40 — still, I can’t help but feel like that same Hills party we were just at got stormed by a bunch of (admittedly hot) basics taking Snapchats of their dicks. Ultimately forgettable. (6.5)


Christina Aguilera – ‘Accelerate’ Feat. Ty Dolla $ign & 2 Chainz

Jesse Bernard: There are moments in this song which remind us why Christina Aguilera is one of the most successful voices in pop of all time, however she seldom uses the range and incredible vocal runs she’s known for. The production, by Kanye West, is a little too disjointed to ever really give Xtina an opportunity to showcase those expansive vocals. (5)

Caroline Whiteley: Almost everything about this is a hot mess. (3)

Cameron Cook: Two weeks ago, a Kanye-produced track would have seemed like a slam dunk, but no one is safe from the ancient Curse of the Christina Aguilera Comeback Single. For an artist that is so undeniably talented, the fact that the past solid decade of Christina records have been shunned by the public is a real shame, but it doesn’t sound like this one is going to break the streak. I’ll still give the album a listen though because ‘Beautiful’ exists and we should never forget that.

Also, whoever directed this video needs to cut Marilyn Minter a check. Like, come on. (5)

Michelle Lhooq: Ugh. I was rooting for this so hard right from the warped intro to Christina’s confident build, until 2 Chainz’s vocals slid in and everything turned into an incoherent mush. This track is throwing a lot of ideas at us, and ends up being a confusing R&B-trap-pop ballad where little details might sound cool, but nothing really gels. (5.5)


D∆WN x Mumdance – ‘Guardian Angel’

Caroline Whiteley: Sounds like the soundtrack to an epic post-analog sci-fi epoch in the best way. (7.5)

Cameron Cook: These Legend of Zelda strings are a really interesting decision here, although once the chorus kicks in they kind of go from fresh and constructed to stuffy and Oscar-movie-soundtrack-y. Power ballads are really tricky because they have to be either just flat-out good (’90s Mariah) or cheesy on purpose (’90s Celine); this kind of teeters along without going either way. (6.5)

Jesse Bernard: Dawn Richard’s career arc since Making The Band and Danity Kane has been particularly intriguing but none more so than the music she’s released through Local Action. The collaboration between D∆WN and Mumdance is a true gem, particularly as the string-section amplifies her voice while turning the song into a light power ballad. (7)

Michelle Lhooq: Lol the first time this track popped up on my SoundCloud, I stopped what I was doing to close the tab — because I thought it was an ad. This is the opposite of the Diplo track from last week — I really, really want to like this collab, but it’s so, so bad. Like, soundtrack of a teen vampire movie from five years ago bad. (0)


Tirzah – ‘Gladly’

Caroline Whiteley: Tirzah first appeared on the scene with ‘I’m Not Dancing’, a fantastic fusion of pop and house made in collaboration with Mica Levi. This most recent offering is a stripped-back love ballad that absolutely hits the spot. The modesty of ‘Gladly’ captures the beauty and vulnerability of being in love. (8.5)

Jesse Bernard: Tirzah’s mellow vocals really do make her music feel like what I’d listen to if I watching the sun set. The warm tone of her voice and the lo-fi production really elevate the track. (9)

Michelle Lhooq: Leans skillfully on the good side of the boring/meditative line — Tirzah sounds like she’s singing a heartbroken lullaby as the song plods along to Mica Levi’s intricate garden of a composition, bursting into a sunny climax before sinking back into its dreamy reverie. One of the most gorgeous takes on experimental pop I’ve heard in a while. (8)

Cameron Cook: The way Tirzah’s voice skips across that hypnotic, distorted keyboard is curing my depression. From what I understand, this was produced by Mica Levi, who across the years has mastered the art of minimalism as emotionality. This sounds like mid-’90s TLC doing a slow-motion electric slide in heaven, and I’m here for it. (7.5)


Final scores:
Tirzah – ‘Gladly’ (8)
Sami Baha – ‘Thug’ Feat. DJ Nate (7.5)
Valee – ‘Womp Womp’ Feat. Jeremih (6.5)
D∆WN x Mumdance – ‘Guardian Angel’ (5)
Christina Aguilera – ‘Accelerate’ Feat. Ty Dolla $ign & 2 Chainz (4.5)

Cameron Cook is an American culture journalist currently residing in Berlin, Germany. He would go to the ends of the Earth for Kate Bush. (@iamacameron)

Caroline Whiteley is freelance writer based in Berlin. (@carowhiteley)

Jesse Bernard is freelance music and culture journalist based in Brooklyn and London, still hotsteppin’ in a Nike Air sneaker. (@MarvinsCorridor)

Michelle Lhooq is an LA-based journalist writing about music and weed. (@MichelleLhooq)

Read next: The Rap Round-up, April 2018 – Cardi B is here to stay, Xanax may be out the door



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