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 David Turner, Doreen St. Félix, Ira Madison III, Hazel Cills, Meaghan Garvey, Sasha Geffen, Jessica Hopper, Simon Vozick-Levinson, and Charles Aaron.
Keith Urban feat. Pitbull and Nile Rodgers, "Sun Don't Let Me Down"
Turner: Y? Just ... Y?
St. Félix: Sure, David, but do you remember "Timber”? Pitbull been had a hard-on for country fame. I’m gonna let him do what it do.
Madison III: Pitbull will always do what it do. Pitbull will be making music for centuries. He will never die.
Aaron: Keith Urban will definitely die.
Hopper: Pitbull is the pop equivalent of Satan in The Master and Margarita: appearing throughout recorded history; never leaving us; forever on our commercials, billboards, and jock jamming sports interstitials; and, here, hyping Keith Urban over some sanity-shredding sample of a banjo. This funky pap makes Robin Thicke sound like Mahavishnu Orchestra.
Aaron: Why do Keith Urban’s vocals sound so piddly and thin here? Have they always sounded this bad and I never noticed? Did somebody forget to turn on the Auto-Tune? Also of major concern: Did Nile Rodgers just email in his part or did he have to get on a plane? I certainly hope it’s the former. Keep gettin’ those checks, Nile!
Vozick-Levinson: The first time I heard this song, I thought, "You know what? I kinda like this." The second time, my mind was free of all thought, a pure void open to the universe. It was beautiful. The third time, I almost threw my laptop in a river. I love Pitbull, and Keith Urban seems like a nice enough guy, but I am lost trying to figure out how whichever evil genius produced this track managed to make the god Nile Rodgers's rhythm guitar sound this tediously generic.
The Hood Internet, “Burn the Panda”
Vozick-Levinson: This defies the laws of physics and history. No mash-up should sound this tight in 2016. I love how it connects the keyed up tension that runs through both "Panda" and "Burn the Witch," the way Jonny Greenwood's instrument-banging orchestral arrangement kinda sounds like a Chaucerian trap beat. Thom Yorke definitely listens to hip-hop — he's famously into Madlib and MF Doom — and now I'm unexpectedly curious about his favorite Future mixtape?
Garvey: It’s definitely 56 Nights, a.k.a. Future’s own low-flying panic attack. And while we’re at it, I’m going to go ahead and assume Future Hendrix’s favorite Radiohead album is OK Computer.
Aaron: This goes on every level, doubling up the anxious energy of both songs, like Simon mentioned, and the SoundCloud artwork — our beloved panda persecuted by villagers — made my week. Also, The Hood Internet figured out that Desiigner’s voice works best as a Future-istic sound effect, throwing it at the track like confetti.
Hopper: I've been thinking this week about how Thom Yorke’s voice bubbles, trails, and dissolves at the end of the phrase. Hearing Desiigner removed of his “Panda” place, you hear a similar, parallel tic giddyupping here. Full disclosure: I once bought a bag of used ties for $5 at a garage sale one of the Hood Internet guys had. He had a tie store on Etsy. They were cool ties.
Geffen: There seems to be a lingering illusion among some Radiohead fans that Radiohead is some kind of enigma or secret, a band only for those who crack their codes and manage to enter their world. Mixing their new single with the No. 1 song in the country shatters that feeling beautifully. (I mean, Lady Gaga loves Radiohead. Vanessa Hudgens loves Radiohead. They are the least indie indie band ever.) I’m kind of in love with how Desiigner’s vocal trills mesh seamlessly with the anxiety-spiked string riffs here; it’s like this mash-up lets the subliminal panic attack of "Burn the Witch" out into the open air.
Dua Lipa, “Hotter Than Hell”
Turner: I have a bad habit of hearing music and thinking about which retail speaker system might play it. “Hotter Than Hell” is far too much of a contemporary house banger for Urban Outfitters or American Apparel. The prominent usage of the word “hell” makes me think it isn’t safe for the makeup section of a department store. Thus I want to place it within a Mango or Zara, a European house of fast fashion that screams contemporary — shout to Jamie xx and trop house — but not truly, truly underground. Hopefully, I try on a pair of too-tight pants to this track later this summer.
Aaron: I imagine Dov Charney dancing alone to this in the empty Manhattan loft apartment of a hedge fund bro while throwing legal documents in the air. Not sexy.
Garvey: If it were 2009, the Classixx remix of this song would be the underdog song of the summer. Dua’s voice is a lot more compelling to me than the Indie Girl Voice EDM balladeers (see also: Bebe Rexha) that seem to be everywhere this year, but she’s not really doing anything fun with it. Not sold.
Cills: Agreed with Garvey that what stands out the most for me on this song is Dua Lipa’s voice. It hearkens back, at least a little bit, to the ‘90s house diva vocals that I wish populated more of Top 40 dance music these days.
Hopper: Every song that exists, from indie rock to pop pabulum, is pseudo-"Sorry" trop house, and all of them are the same song, same tempo, same synths. Her voice cuts through; she sounds like she learned to sing in her room to Amy Winehouse records — she has power there. Curious where she takes this, beyond the technicolor forest floor she is humping in the video for this track.
Madison III: Dua and Alex Newell need to do a thundering ‘90s house duet. Her voice is fantastic, and I love that we're on this new era of singers with booming voices laying down vocals over majestic beats.
Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Dark Necessities"
Madison III: This song is dope. I've really never disliked a Chili Peppers album until their last one, I'm With You, and this is a pretty good sign that I'm gonna love their new effort. I didn't get into RHCP until college, but their mix of white-boy rock and bluesy soul reminds me of my favorite band, Hall & Oates, and a lot of the music I grew up listening to with my grandmother. True story: She dug the album Stadium Arcadium when she visited me at college one year and drove me to Target to buy shit for my dorm. That same year, I saw RHCP at Lolla and rocked out so hard my glasses flew off me and into the mosh pit. I was near the front, the crowd cleared, and people stopped moshing to hand me my glasses. At that moment, RHCP became a religious instrument for good in my life, and I've loved them ever since. All of that is to say that I fucking love this song and I can't wait to drive around Los Angeles at twilight listening to it on repeat.
Aaron: I defer to Ira on this one since it clearly has far more personal resonance for him than it could ever have for me, since I’ve been haunted by the Chili Peppers’s butt-bongo-fiesta brand of penile-entrapment rock ever since they first threw porno playing cards at bored audiences in the mid-1980s. One quick note: I bet the Froosh replacement dude’s guitar solo will sound exponentially better live; here, it’s kind of a flaccid fiasco.
Turner: Back in high school, when I found out that the Red Hot Chill Peppers got started in the mid-1980s, it was one of the scariest facts I could’ve ever known. How could this band that I knew only from “Dani California” have existed for 20 years before I heard of them? I never dove into their back catalogue after that, but cultural osmosis means you can't get away without at least hearing their decades' worth of hits. “Dark Necessities” is fine. I sort of wish it would get an Aphex Twin remix that only used the 40 seconds before the funk started. But I’m veering toward RHCP fan fiction, so I’ll just press play on the song again.
Geffen: This single confirms for me that Flea stars in his own "this bassist is at the wrong gig" video every time he plays in his primary band. Without Flea, this could be a Coldplay tune. But here he is again, thumping away on a song that seems to have very little to do with him, and, as always, he sounds completely happy about it. The solo is extra clunky — I miss John Frusciante so much.
Blake Shelton feat. Gwen Stefani, “Go Ahead and Break My Heart”
Madison III: What a letdown. I actually loved Blake's last single, "Came Here to Forget." I thought it was dark, moody, and a perfect observation of his post-divorce state of mind. But I really can't get into this. It sounds like generic country pop, has none of the personality of a Gwen song, and none of the darkness I thought Blake was going to bring to this album.
Aaron: Duet format marketing aside, I feel like they kinda nullify each other’s charisma or individuality. They make each other seem more basic.
Hopper: This is a vehicle for their relationship to performatively exist, for them to be on stage within feet of each other and be the rebound that Life & Style has been shipping us for the last few months. While I don’t want Stefani’s bogarted punky reggae infusing ol’ boy’s country scenario, she could be anyone on this song — but I want to hear her as her. Next.