Max Totsky: Ariana Grande’s Dangerous Woman is chock full of songs that really shouldn’t work on paper but somehow find a way to be entertaining/captivating in a slightly post-tasteful way. “Side to Side” is not one of the album’s stronger tracks, but it epitomizes its strongest quality. It makes a bizarre combination (Grande and Minaj singing about ridiculously rough sex over a dancehall-infused over a Max Martin instrumental) and turns it into convincing pop-radio fodder. It’s one of the most unabashedly infectious tracks Grande has put out, subbing her typically refined style of pop for something a bit less pristine, a bit sweatier. Grande might actually “run pop”, but ‘Side to Side’ works on very different terms than her best tracks, the most clear-cut choice from a single from an album with many. [7/10]
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Adriane Pontecorvo: In a year marked by outrageous, over-the-top political tensions, both locally and globally, it’s beyond satisfying to watch a video centered on politicians that go from a rap battle to a full-on intergovernmental brawl, especially with such a strong song to back up the action. Nobody holds back here; Run the Jewels’ rapping takes hard, dirty swipes at Trump, your momma, and anyone else in the way while blues arpeggios evoke wild west showdowns and trumpets back up every dramatic moment. DJ Shadow’s electronic beats add an extra layer of cinematic thrill to the track, giving us the no-holds-barred musical catharsis we all deserve for sticking it out through 2016. [10/10]
Adriane Pontecorvo: There must be a vault somewhere in Stockholm that holds all the secrets to pop music, because nobody puts together a catchy song quite like the Swedes do. Miike Snow’s latest single attests to this; “My Trigger” captivates and begs for a dozen successive listens. Every element is so polished that it’s hard to pick the key to this song, but for my money, nothing keeps the song both moving forward and adds some weight to it like those keys. Upbeat, skillful, and above all, entertaining, both aurally and visually. This is the perfect pop song. [10/10]
Adriane Pontecorvo: Against Me! has fun with power pop, stepping back a few decades with Kiss-style face paint and low-budget sci-fi references. Laura Jane Grace shouts the post-heartbreak lyrics of “Crash” with the aggressive energy of a teenage garage band. It’s infectious, with a classic rock feel that Against Me! knows not to take too seriously. This is a song that doesn’t need a twist to make its point; it’s guaranteed to get a crowd jumping. [8/10]
If Balthazar’s singer and multi-instrumentalist Maarten Devoldere is hoping to make a big splash with his debut record as Warhaus, he’s done so already on the basis of its title alone: We Fucked a Flame into Being, which comes from D.L. Lawrence’s famous erotic novel Lady Chatterly’s Lover. Though the album’s title takes from English literature, Warhaus’ music is of a decidedly American-European feel, particularly in its noir influences. The first five tracks on We Fucked a Flame into Being exude cigarette smoke, aromas of whiskey, and a palpable sense of intrigue. One can easily place Warhaus in the storied legacy of Dashiell Hammett and Jean-Pierre Melville: all purveyors in shadow-drenched art.
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