Singles Club: Ciara came to ‘Level Up’

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

Did Singles Club’s Cameron Cook summon Ciara out of marital and baby bliss after suggesting last week that Tinashe may have dethroned her as the current underrated queen of R&B pop innovation? Were the FACT editors unsurprised by the tie for the top spot on this week’s ballot came from two artists making very different music but refuse, in equal measure to compromise their personal vision? Is nu-jazz really the future? All that and more in this week’s Singles Club.

Ciara – ‘Level Up’

Cameron Cook: Last week we talked about Tinashe replacing Ciara as Top 40 R&B’s most underrated innovator. This week, Princess CiCi came flying out the gate to remind us that, nope, she and her abs of steel are still here and won’t be ignored. I have a hard time thinking of another pop star that is so consistently good yet consistently overlooked. ‘Level Up’ is as catchy, bombastic and clever as anything Ciara has released in her career. The only thing that would make it demonstratively better would be if she had used DJ Telly Tellz’s original “fuck it up” hook. But other than that, no complaints. (8)

Caroline Whiteley: Ciara, the underrated R&B princess of the century, popped back into the music world with a Jersey Club-inspired bop that is bound to get stuck in my head. Yummy! (7)

Jesse Bernard: A lot of the magic that used to come with a Ciara hit earlier in her career seems to have eluded her most recent one. She’s worked with some heavy-hitting producers over the years but banking on viral success through a social media challenge. She could easily grab our attention with anthemic sultry cut like ‘Body Party’. (6)

Michelle Lhooq: Damn, really not mad at that Jersey Club-inspired beat, which kicks this song up from average radio fodder to excellent club banger. My headspace today was stuck in a cycle of silly insecurities until I heard this, the endorphins flooded in, and all I could think was: YAAAAAS! (7.5)


Sarah Davachi – ‘Evensong’

Jesse Bernard: Listening to this song feels as though I’m watching the tide drift in and out, while the moon’s reflection bounces off the water’s surface. The soundscape Davachi creates in just under ten minutes is one of mesmeric ambience. (8)

Michelle Lhooq: So many electronic producers are making ambient music these days to scattershot results, but Davachi  – who was never a trend-chaser to begin with – stands out with her meditative, mindful approach to tonal harmonics. Instead of drifting into meaningless nothingness, ‘Evensong’ grounds you into a trance-like, hypnotic state. Something tells me I need to hear this in a giant dome in the middle of Joshua Tree to grasp its true effect. (7.5)

Caroline Whiteley: Bury me to this song. No seriously, Davachi created something hauntingly beautiful featuring even more analog sounds than her previous work. (8)

Cameron Cook: This sounds like the soundtrack to a movie where Saoirse Ronan plays a galactic fairy princess sent to Earth to swim around the ocean and transform all our plastic waste into gummy bears. This song didn’t really give me anything but that image. That alone was worth the listen. (6.5)


Amnesia Scanner – ‘AS A.W.O.L.’

Jesse Bernard: The drum pattern is the only thing that keeps me hooked to this track. It’s alluring enough to generate enough interest in the rest of the album, which I’m sure explores more of the abrasive electronic sound on ‘AS A.W.O.L.’ (5)

Michelle Lhooq: Amnesia Scanner is back, bitches! I couldn’t be more stoked that the Berlin duo is still packing the same disorienting punches as on their previous mind-blowing EPs, while the music video hints at an expanded visual world their upcoming debut album might herald. My friend Andrew Ryce put it best when he recently tweeted, “Amnesia Scanner is the greatest rock band of all time.” (8.5)

Caroline Whiteley: I’m gonna come off super uncool for saying this, but I’m not getting anything out of this. Or as my friend said the other day “If I had no association [to PAN] I wouldn’t be listening to it.”(3)

Cameron Cook: First of all, this creepy-ass video is unnecessarily traumatic. I googled to see if Chris Cunningham directed it, which sent me down an Aphex Twin YouTube wormhole, and now I can’t sleep. As far as the song goes, I’m into it – that eerie xylophone really ties the melody in well. Even though we’ve been hearing a lot of down-pitched, distorted vocals in electronic music lately, it’s effectively unsettling and weird here. (7.5)


Chance the Rapper – ‘I Might Need Security’

Caroline Whiteley: Only Chance could come through with an angry bop that still oozes sunshine and playfulness: the artwork is a deconstructed take on the Angry Arthur Fist meme, after all! (8)

Jesse Bernard: The collection of singles Chance released last Friday was very much a continuation of the exuberant energy displayed through Coloring Book. Personally, I think Acid Rap Chano was him at his lyrical best but this direction makes a lot of sense for someone who’s much happier with life now. (7)

Cameron Cook: Sampling a Jamie Foxx stand-up special from 2002 is one of the reasons Chance is one of the best artists around: he’s so good at constructing layers of pop culture analysis, social commentary, dope hooks and tight rhymes. This totally made me excited for more new Chance tracks in the near future. (8.5)

Michelle Lhooq: Per usual, Chance packs a lot into four minutes. There’s a bounty of politically-charged zingers to choose from here, but as a journalist, “I bought the Chicagoist just to run you racist bitches out of business” was the verse that got me screaming. The Jamie Foxx sample, on the other hand, loses its bite around the 100th repetition and just gets plain annoying. (6.5)


Brandon Coleman – ‘Giant Feelings’

Caroline Whiteley: When I first put this on I thought it had a vaguely Thundercat/Flying Lotus/Kamasi Washington-esque nu-jazz element to it and, boom, turns out Brandon Coleman is Washington’s keyboardist. With its dramatic orchestration it could almost function as some sort of pacifist James Bond theme. (8)

Michelle Lhooq: There’s something sooo LA about this song and video, from the upbeat earnestness of its central message to the outdoor scenes seemingly filmed on hiking trail overlooking the city skyline. Look, I have nothing against open-hearted positivity in music. But there was a point – namely, when Coleman croons, “Sweet love it was designed for you and me / together we must live in harmony,” against giant swells of orchestra strings – where it all just felt like way too much cheese. (3)

Jesse Bernard: A perfectly apt name for this one. I enjoy the way the synths reverberate against Coleman’s distorted vocals and bandmate Kamasi Washington’s horns. Coleman’s debut release is one I’m looking forward to. (9)

Cameron Cook: Thank you for ending this week’s ballot with this slice of uplifting space funk, because I’m desperately in need of all the good vibes I can get right now, what with the Earth continuing to spin right off its axis on a daily basis. This track is heaven-sent. The angelic harmonies and squelchy keyboards sound like P-Funk if they spend a few weeks on a desert retreat, eating smoothie bowls and consuming the finest psychedelic mushrooms the West Coast has to offer. (7.5)


Final scores:
Chance the Rapper – ‘I Might Need Security’ (7.5)
Sarah Davachi – ‘Eversong’ (7.5)

Ciara – ‘Level Up’ (7)
Brandon Coleman – ‘Giant Feelings’ (6.9)
Amnesia Scanner – ‘AS A.W.O.L’ (6)

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)



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