Comment Vulture is looking back at the best releases so far in This list has been updated to include October releases. What is a single supposed to do? Can one song really change an entire worldview? Now that all music is easily available whenever we want it, how do we decide what we listen to? How could we reckon with every single great song released this year? After sober talk from El and Mike about solidarity and fear in a chilly, dire political environment in part one, and invocations of bitter, desperate aggression in part two, Zack de la Rocha leaps in at the finish with a Children of Men and Charlie Mingus—citing verse fit to melt ice caps or kick off a nuclear winter.
He demands a specific type of perfection — and usually that perfection closely follows his own personal preference: In the early days, everyone went to the same Murphy-approved therapist and wrote songs on the same Murphy-approved equipment. You can hear this dedication to structure in the music he made with LCD Soundsystem, which was a melancholy, joyful, and often brilliantly calculated career-length study on what it means to grow older while attempting to control your own destiny.
The ending of the project — a series of sold out shows at Madison Square Garden in — felt like the right way to go out. So when they came back just a couple years later, announcing a full tour and even a new album, some fans belt betrayed, like their experience at MSG had somehow been diminished. It seems that Savage has untapped capacities when it comes to producing, as well: With its rainy-day guitar line stretched out over thumping s, the economical, elegant instrumental provides the perfect setting for his calm enumeration of new money.
You get the clear sense that he knows how to present himself and enrich himself: Each feeds into the other as the beat strides on. Drake is intoxicated and he might just say how he feels. Contempt can be exhilarating. Bronx-raised and Bronx-tough, the woman born as Belcalis Almanzar crowns herself the queen of disdain. Her voice, drizzled over a simple yet luxurious trap beat, is poised in supremacy and rich with pride.
This is the song for everyone who needs to look down on someone; in other words, this is the song for everyone. When Jepsen feeds her fans a crumb these days — even a song for an animated film — they eat it up.
There are handclaps, drum stomps, and a chorus so light and sugary that you will float to the dance floor and wonder how you got there. But nothing actually wraps up that neatly, least of all an album weighted by the complex, contradictory interpretations of femininity. Being scared is not just being scared, and being famous comes with its own pitfalls. But Kendrick is such a skilled artist that this highly specific track achieves new weight through its specificity.
Failing at love weighs heavy on the conscience, but failing at love with one of the most almighty women on the planet — especially when so many expected you to fail — is enough to sink the spirit. Who could sleep next to the woman they love knowing you broke every vow and she forgave you regardless?
At some point, in the middle of the night, you must awaken to forgive yourself and repent. Styles, when given the microphone all to himself, has a damn fine falsetto.
Would it have to be some minute song? But what about the epic novel as individual song? Is it even possible to distill all that hard-won insight into just a few minutes? It finds the former Vampire Weekend member drifting through soft-focus New York, mumble-singing about dreams and life over cello reminiscent of World of Echo—era Arthur Russell. Chalk it up to Vicodin or to Venus: No one says what they mean or does what they say because, ultimately, no one knows what they want. But someone always wants something.
To paraphrase my colleague Dee, the song has the power to convert any listener into a model and transform the ground on which they walk into a runway. Only time will tell if Carti has what it takes to become a great artist.
Similarly, how much can be said about the state of the world and how we choose to interact with it? That it sounds so universal is a testament to her ability as a songwriter. Some songs can be described as moving; this one stops everything around it.