Lana Del Rey—“West Coast”
My difficulties with Del Rey revolve around performance rather than concept. Her intelligence is as obvious as her lack of vocal talent, and the music she places around her voice is smart but often overdone, low-key but lush and melodramatic at the same time. “West Coast” solves most of those problems. Beefing up her vocals with the help of echo, double tracking, and harmony allows her to sound less waiflike while maintaining a sense of exhausted vulnerability. It also allows her to shape denser, more interesting arrangements. This opens with a dub drumroll, shifts into a noirish, electronic drone on the verses, and then into a spaghetti western backdrop on the chorus. I still have doubts about her washed-out sexuality and the feeling of submission it creates, but it makes a lot more sense with this music than it did before.
One Direction—“You & I”
A decent power ballad, though their lyrics often stretch their metaphors into the ridiculous (“I see what it’s like for day and night/Never together/Cause they see things in a different light”). Do they take these things seriously, or do they take turns laughing at their audience when they’re not taking turns at the mic? Hard to say, though it’s nice to know they’re thinking, for what that’s worth.
OneRepublic—“Love Runs Out”
The hollow sound of drums beating in an emotional and intellectual vacuum. Plus shouting. They will do this until the love runs out. Shoot me now.
On first listen, from a distance, this sounds like the best thing Coldplay has ever done: moody, tight, emotionally wasted. Closer inspection reveals the usual borrowed musical ideas and vague lyrics. Chris Martin would appear to be afraid of the dark. Still better than I ever expected from them.
Lee Brice—“I Don’t Dance”
This sounds good, quieter and more subtle than the norm in bro-country, and Brice’s voice is fine. But he sings about being in love the same way he sang about his dead brother in “I Drive Your Truck”: with stolid seriousness and self-importance. Since the title conjures up fond memories of Tom T. Hall’s (and Graham Parson’s) “I Can’t Dance”, the thudding tempo here seems even more of a mistake. Being in love is about being alive; so why does Brice sound like he’s going to a funeral?
Nico & Vinz—“Am I Wrong”
A couple of black guys from Norway, formerly known as Envy, cobble together a pastiche of Senegalese rhythms and riffs, write a bunch of banal lyrics to go over the top, which one of them sings as stiffly as possible. It’s the Swedish House Mafia formula all over again, though the rhythms make up for a lot. A number two record all over Scandinavia, though I wouldn’t look for the same thing here.
Wiz Khalifa—“We Dem Boyz”
More of a chant with vocal asides than a rap, and more boring than not. It’s not a bad chant, but it wears down fast, and the asides say nothing new and then some. Oh, and the response vocals in the background are really stupid. Think maybe it’s the dope?
Dustin Lynch—“Where It’s At”
A slightly above average song of marital—or at least connubial—bliss, but not so far above average as you’d notice.