The Band Perry—“Better Dig Two”
In which the group who jump-started their career with “If I Die Young” goes full bore into country gothic. The woman in “Better Dig Two” not only vows to follow her husband in death, but appears to threaten a murder-suicide if he ever dares to leave her. It’s Miranda Lambert’s “Crazy-Ex Girlfriend” taken to the emotional limit. I wish I could say it was great, but somehow it doesn’t work. The music is menacing, but their pop roots show, and the tone is off in places. They’re trying too hard.
A$AP Rocky featuring Drake, 2 Chainz & Kendrick Lamar—“Fuckin’ Problems”
Normally I could care less about rappers bragging about how often they get laid, but this one works, largely because everybody here, even Drake, is at the top of their form. Drake, in fact, walks away with the record; bragging about his dick must inspire him. I’ll admit Kendrick Lamar sounds a little out of place—this isn’t really his zone—but he makes the best of it anyway.
Chris Brown—“Don’t Judge Me”
With titles like this, you have to wonder why Brown complains so much when anyone brings up Rihanna in interviews. Uh, because you keep bringing her up in your music? Not that this is technically about Rihanna, of course; I’m sure it’s a complete fiction. Besides, it’s about womanizing, not battery. But didn’t the fight with Rihanna start because she was calling Brown on his womanizing? Maybe he should write a song called “The Ballad of Chris and Ri Ri” and get it over with. Whatever. It’s a boring record, anyway.
The Weeknd—“Wicked Games”
The sound is impressive, and so is the voice, but every time I listen to The Weeknd I find myself faced with a supposed soul man who devotes himself to the same misogynistic crap as the hardest rappers, and I suspect that has a lot to do with his appeal. I admit that this time out he confesses his sins, but it’s the sort of manipulative candor that’s designed to make him look deep; even as he admits to taking advantage of you he still expects you to do whatever he wants. He’s soulful, but he’s a con man, and I don’t trust him.
Kelly Clarkson featuring Vince Gill—“Don’t Rush”
Finally a decent song, and better yet, Clarkson takes another step toward fulfilling my dream of her becoming this generation’s Dusty Springfield. Her vocals are stunning: alluring, sexy, self-possessed, and smart. The ’70s easy-listening soul feel is a perfect fit for her. All the ironic yacht rockers should either give up or ask Clarkson to give them lessons—this is what you can do with the style when you put all your heart and soul and brains into it.
Thompson Square—“If I Didn’t Have You”
Of all the mixed pairs in country music, Thompson Square is probably the least interesting: there’s no tension between them, and no sign of passion, either. This isn’t the worst record you’ll ever hear, but it is one of the blandest.
Dierks Bentley—“Tip It On Back”
For a beer drinking song, “Tip It On Back” is surprisingly slow, almost mournful. That makes sense on the opening verse, which is about the travails of life that make you want to get good and drunk on the weekends, but the chorus, oddly, is the same. It doesn’t get any faster or more joyful, just louder. Makes you wonder why he drinks at all.