5 Seconds of Summer—“She Looks So Perfect”
Australian boy band, One Direction approved, bouncy, loud, maybe slightly better than average. None of that matters. What matters is the chorus, an insidious earworm that implants itself instantly in your brain and never goes away. Ever. It’s about underwear (I won’t mention the brand—if this wasn’t product placement the company is getting enough free advertising as it is). I dare you to forget it once you’ve heard it, and not to feel dirtied when you do. It’s disgusting and captivating at the same time. People of a certain age or maturity level are going to be shouting it all summer. 5 seconds my ass.
Sam Smith—“Stay With Me”
Up to now, Smith’s chart placings have been features on EDM records. These have been good but not great. The format is too loose for him, the high emotionalism of his vocals needs a solid structure to provide context and tension. “Stay With Me” proves this. Classic soul in style, it runs less than three minutes, and it’s close to perfect. Even the massed vocals on the chorus which seem like overkill on first listen turn out to be emotionally precise, the sound of a multitide of channels of pain and loneliness bursting out. Vulnerability isn’t the only trick in Smith’s bag, but he plays it very, very well.
KONGOS—“Come With Me Now”
Every couple of years another great white rock and roll hope rears its head, makes a fuss for a while, and then disappears (remember Kings of Leon? Have you forgotten Imagine Dragons yet? And how about them Black Keys?). KONGOS could easily fall into the same trap, but I hope not—they’re too good. They certainly fit the mold, though, and are prime press fodder: four brothers, sons of John Kongos, who had a few UK hits in the early seventies and was famously sampled by Happy Mondays, born in South Africa, raised in the UK, now based in Phoenix. And their music shows all these influences: touches of British blues and psychedelia with a huge, very American sound, some U2 style balladry, and grace notes of township jive. Sometimes they sound overwrought, and I have no idea what the song is about, but it’s enjoyable all the same. Even if they’re full of themselves, like every other great white rock and roll hope, at least they don’t seem to be. They don’t even think the devil finds them tasty.