Every week, MTV's writers and critics assemble and weigh in on new hotness, chart trash, and glimmers of hope in the pop music landscape. This week's roundtable includes Ira Madison III, Meaghan Garvey, Hazel Cills, Jessica Hopper, Charles Aaron, Molly Beauchemin, Carvell Wallace, Simon Vozick-Levinson, and David Turner.
Alex Newell, "This Ain’t Over"
Madison III: Alex Newell better come through with this deep house! I'm kinda living for this song. I want to leave work immediately, get wasted, and dance to it in West Hollywood. His vocals are on point and I'm loving the androgyny. I'm here for it, here for it, here for it.
Hopper: That Glee had to exist so we could eventually get Alex Newell’s post-television club diva career — I am OK with that. Two decades of living and dancing in Chicago has taught me that I could subsist on Robin S's “Show Me Love” and soulful house music for the rest of my natural life, so this song is really affirming that life choice. His song with The Knocks from last summer made me excited for him to be this year’s producer muse, so that he can take that Sam Smith ladder up to fame and, uh, knock Sam Smith off of it.
Turner: I’m always down for big '90s-esque house tracks, so this doesn’t disappoint. I almost wish it was even more '90s; maybe the keys could be more prominent or maybe the vocal raised even higher. I’m being picky, but one can dream!
Aaron: Bring on the remixes, this is so welcome at the waterpark. Party in the wave pool with Alex! The little popcorn synth blip on the chorus gives it an extra lightness so it takes off. I agree with David: Some remix should spotlight his voice so it can ascend to the clouds.
Cate Le Bon, "Wonderful"
Cills: There are a few European bands like Shopping and Trash Kit who are reviving that sort of off-kilter, bass-heavy, late '70s post-punk spirit à la The Raincoats and The Slits. I hear that in the bones of Cate Le Bon’s “Wonderful,” but here she’s really letting the song marinate in its own arty weirdness, with the result sounding like it could be a Family Fodder jam. I love a song that celebrates messiness and sounds like a coming together of extremely “wrong” elements (a spot of sax here, a nonsensical banging of a xylophone there), and “Wonderful” is that kind of song. And I’m living for the grossness of “my heart’s in my supper, my supper, my supper.” Romantic!
Hopper: I am for anything that’s glittering evidence of long-tail Slits influence, and the kitchen-sink rhythm track makes this my favorite thing she has done to date. I want to see her playing this song in someone’s basement, lit only by a half-dozen strings of Christmas lights, through a practice amp P.A., for the full spirited DIY effect that this song showcases.
Aaron: In addition to the older post-punk references that Hazel cited (which are all certainly apt), it also reminds me of a more refined version of Micachu and the Shapes – small-scale, spazzy, discordant pop by very talented musicians that makes you feel like you could start your own band but is really hard to pull off without sounding horribly affected. This is so well-written; there are interesting little bits throughout. It doesn’t settle despite sounding raw.
Madison III: Is this the person who made "99 Luftballons"?
G-Eazy feat. Bebe Rexha, "Me, Myself & I"
Hopper: G-Eazy, presenting at week 17 on the Hot 100.
Turner: As a black person, I’m always oddly fascinated when a form of black music is completely stripped of any blackness. That is exactly what G-Eazy did here, but, to his credit, he also drained out any soul or energy from the music as well. Good job, Gerald! Joyless white tunes, awesome. Applause all around.
Beauchemin: G-Eazy sounds like a bad marriage of Macklemore and Drake, and somewhere deep inside this instrumental is a riff from “Cotton-Eyed Joe” trying to fight its way out. These elements combined with Bebe Rexha’s “indie girl voice” and the occasional “yooooHOOOOO” should, in theory, make this song unlistenable, but alas I am now willingly playing this song on loop.
Hopper: This is really the half-year of “I hate parties!” ugh-anthems, and G-Eazy’s “No More Parties in Your Parents Turnt Townhouse” vibe is a distant 71st on that list. The whole emo-struggle narrative is a valiant attempt to give G-Eazy and his music a glimmer of personality.
Vozick-Levinson: I am ashamed to admit how many times I have Shazamed this song in a half-asleep, early morning radio daze. The sense of disappointment when I see G-Eazy's name gets deeper each time.
Garvey: G-Eazy is that dude on your Facebook linking Thought Catalog lists of “17 Things Only Introverts Understand” as you try to remember why you ever accepted this person’s friendship. Anyways, being famous is totally hard, y’all! [Insert Beats Pill plug here.]
Aaron: I wouldn’t be surprised if G-Eazy was revealed to be some mogul’s pampered, headstrong son, like when Phil Knight’s kid wanted to be a rapper and got a record deal.
Madison III: G-Eazy's voice turns me on as much as his name makes me violent. I now realize I've heard this song like, 100 times but never bothered to learn who sang it. I kinda really love the vibe, love the video (except for the weird interludes). Bebe Rexha also has a dope voice, so I'm here for future Ja Rule/Ashanti-style collabos, or, you know, their solo stuff.
Fifth Harmony feat. Ty Dolla $ign, “Work From Home”
Garvey: I’ve been a card-carrying Harmonizer since Reflection, but this might be the best 5H song to date. “Work From Home” and its very, uh, industrious video hit pretty much everything on my checklist: lusty-but-chill Dolla $ign melodies, shameless male objectification, bold incorporation of bodysuits. But most of all, it is about life’s greatest pleasure: not leaving your house. Freelancers worldwide, this is your spring anthem. Also, does this beat give anyone else Daniel Bedingfield flashbacks?
Hopper: I appreciate that they stop a backhoe short of extending the metaphor. Those little Sophie-styled squeaks in the second verse give some quirk and texture to its minimal maximalism and sensual purring. This song, structurally, is like 80% chorus/pre-chorus, and I really love a song that pays those dividends.
Cills: On the other end of the spectrum, I haven’t really listened to Fifth Harmony’s music. I could recognize it, and I certainly liked them in theory, but I haven’t loved a song of theirs until “Work From Home.” I can’t stop listening to it. It’s somehow a song that’s entirely built on puns and, yet, is sexy?!
Beauchemin: This is the best Fifth Harmony song to date. It occurs to me now that I’m nostalgic for the Spice Girls and I like the way the members of Fifth Harmony each have their own verse. I’m all, “Oooh, I want to be the one in the green leotard!” just like I wanted to be Posh Spice when my elementary school friends and I would role-play during recess. I like this song as a counterpoint to the just-as-silly fluff songs that 1D used to put out.
Madison III: I am constantly wavering between Team Fifth Harmony and Team Little Mix. I like this song well enough, but they had better, sexier jams on Reflection. The chorus is a bit maddening on this and I really don't care about Ty's verse? They also always have a random rapper on their tracks, which makes it feel like it's from 2002, like that new Meghan Trainor song "No," which is just begging for Royce da 5'9" to roll in.
Aaron: Respect to Team Little Mix, but this is a song of the year candidate. Fifth Harmony bangs harder than anything similar on the radio. They’ve got that Manifest Destiny’s Child force here and there’s no reason to equivocate. “Too much” Fifth Harmony?
Madison III: Destiny's Child?! I love them, but I have yet to hear even a "Bootylicious" from 5H. This song works though, and I love the video, even if it's not my fave of theirs (that'd be "Worth It"). I think they'll really kill for me when they use one of their bridges for some fun vocal gymnastics you can sing along to in the club instead of a having a rap during it. I'm looking forward to the other singles.
Iggy Azalea, "Team" (Snippet)
Hopper: She suggests this song snippet is enough to get us to the end of the week. The chorus isn’t even enough to get me to the end of the 30-second serving. It’s understandable that her first new single out the gate has to be the “triumphant” sort of “Imma do me” anthem, but reminding us how everyone doesn’t get her and how she is isolated and on her own here in the world begs a “Yes, and…?”
Aaron: Are we being a little unfair to Iggy’s artistry by throwing shade at her unfinished work, especially when she’s obviously very vulnerable right now after being so virulently called out? Nah, I mean, NO NO NO FUCKING WAY. At this point, she gets what she gets. Anyway, this just sounds like Iggy mouthing along to the Charli XCX (or whomever) guide track. I hope the rest of the song contains a properly vetted hook and chorus (and no rapping).
Madison III: It's odd to see her throng of fans responding to everything she posts with "queen of rap" (is this ironic?) when this song doesn't even have… any rap in it? It sounds like a bad karaoke version of a Fergie song. If she's gonna go the path of electronica, like an Australian t.A.T.u., then more power to her. Just leave the mic on the stage and stop trying to do anything resembling hip-hop.
Vozick-Levinson: Ira, I'm offended on behalf of t.A.T.u that you would compare them to this dreck.
Garvey: Last year I read, like, 12 different half-baked think pieces on Young Thug’s supposedly “post-language” lyricism. It felt like total bullshit, but I think this song might legitimately fit the bill. I can’t decide if the beat is three years or a decade too late: the bastard child of “Hollaback Girl” and wannabe Rihanna “Pour It Up” arena-trap. Presented without comment: I recently learned that Iggy refers to her fans as “ratz.”
Madison III: Is it because every time anyone critiques Iggy on Twitter, you have to exterminate them from your mentions?
Tobtok, "Fast Car" and Jonas Blue, "Fast Car"
Madison III: What is happening in the cultural landscape that has necessitated two "dance" covers of Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car"? Visually and aesthetically, the Tobtok one wins, but overall Jonas Blue kinda knocked it out of the park? I didn't know I needed this cover, and yet, here it is.
Hopper: The Tobtok version is so carefree it sounds like it is actually just a song about a car.
Garvey: I love how “tropical house” as a descriptor has become even more meaningless than it began, with “tropical” as a stand-in for “kinda chill.” This is tropical house, right? I don’t even know anymore. But if I’m being real, I ride for anything that prominently features turnt up pan flutes, so Jonas Blue gets a pass from me, despite seeming to have literally zero other songs based on a cursory search that mostly yielded photos of Joe Jonas with blue hair.
Wallace: Nothing makes more sense than an EDM cover of "Fast Car." It highlights how skillful that melody is at carrying the dry and desperate mood of the song because even though it basically sounds like something you’d hear while you were finding your seat on Virgin Airlines, it still somehow feels just as sad as the acoustic version? That’s amazing if you think about it. Tracy was a lyrical/musical badass. Also, it’s 2016, so how can a song even exist without mechanized beats? It can’t. And Jonas Blue is here to help us with that. I honestly hope they go on to cover every moody slice-of-life track the '80s and '90s ever gave us. RHCP's “Under the Bridge" and “Stay” by Lisa Loeb are both ripe. Make all that shit into a muted neon Vegas Hotel Lobby Track. That’s what reality is anyway.
Aaron: I’m with Carvell: Tracy Chapman’s perfect for these “tropical house” a.k.a. mid-tempo lifestyle-lobby mixes. No matter what any EDM hack does to the song, no matter how it’s cheapened with a stuttering, suck-my-glowstick build-up or Steve Aoki cake-throwing drop, there’s still gonna remain a trace of inscrutably powerful meaning or significance lingering around because it’s Tracy Chapman. Jonas Blue should do “Baby Can I Hold You” next; just pitch up: