Romeo Santos featuring Drake—“Odio”
This is fine, if Less loco than Santos usually gets, but I’m becoming more and more wary of his attempts at crossover. Drake singing in poorly accented Spanish is bad enough (though his rap is kind of cute), but the portentous spoken intro—”Envy is a sign of admiration” Santos croaks, and follows with a non-sequiter that’s even more obvious—is worse, and there’s no one Santos can blame for that but himself. The music and his voice are as gorgeous as ever, but Santos needs to be careful; he’s pointing himself in a direction where those won’t be enough to save him.
Kacey Musgraves—“Follow Your Arrow”
Compared to the hard truths of “Merry Go ‘Round”, “Follow Your Arrow” is more than lightweight, it’s damn near non-existent. “Arrow” is pleasant enough, but if Musgraves thinks YOLO is a way out of the darkness of Same Trailer, Different Park, then she has a hell of a lot to learn. What if a person’s arrow leads them to alcohol and drugs, or prostitution, or the Westboro Baptist Church? It’s easy to offer advice like this when you only imagine the positive outcomes. Unless this is meant to be a version of the lies those living in trailer parks tell themselves to get by (and it doesn’t sound like it is), Musgraves is more simplistic than most thought her to be. The next album well tell, I guess, but in the meantime this is just depressing.
Keith Urban—“Cop Car”
Less smarmy than usual, mostly because Urban is telling a story instead of simply declaring his passion. Trouble is he’s a terrible storyteller—”Cop Car” rambles so much it takes three or four listens to figure out what’s going on. Narrative points don’t matter, anyway, because nothing’s more important to Urban than how he feels. Everything else is just decoration. The same goes for his guitar playing: he feels like he’s expressing himself, so what difference does it make if the resulting solo is a showboating monstrosity? Urban has become the definition of self-absorption. When he gets old he won’t need Depends; he can be his own diaper.
Eric Church—“A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young”
The best song from The Outsiders to hit the charts so far, “A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young” is also the simplest musically, harking back to Church’s first two albums, only with a deeper level of emotion and experience. Thin as his voice is, he’s becoming one hell of a singer: when he lowers his voice he sounds like an aching national guitar. The song has one dud line (“pushing up daisies” is too cliche to fit with the rest of the song), and there are a couple of brief moments where Church overreaches, but otherwise this is perfect.
K. Michelle—“Can’t Raise A Man”
“These are the signs of a grown-ass boy” is the line of the year so far, and I wish there was better music to go with it, but “Can’t Raise a Man” drags too much and is too ordinary. Michelle has a lot of promise, but she hasn’t learned to put it all together yet.
Imagine Dragons—“On Top of the World”
After all the monsters and demons and radioactivity (not to mention the apocalypse), suddenly Imagine Dragons get happy—a happiness they telegraph, just like their inner torment, with cliches. Hand claps, shouted choruses, steel drums, they’ll misuse anything to get their point across. The real point being, of course, that they don’t have one; they’re just trying on different attitudes to see what clicks. This one hasn’t, so far. They should be back with their doom mongering any time now. Which probably won’t improve their faulty sense of grammar: “Been dreaming of this since a child” they sing. Since a child what? Stole your toys? Ripped your comic books? Beat you bloody with a whiffle bat? I don’t even want to think about what “I’ve had the highest mountains/I’ve had the deepest rivers” means. If you’re going to fill your songs with cliches, at least use them correctly.