Susan Behrends Valenzuela
This week’s reviews sprawl across a range of genres. From Kehlani’s popcorn butter-smooth R&B to Snail Mail’s electrified indie-rock, these singles will spice up your playlist.
“Sex, Drugs, Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Will Wood
Caitlin Hsu, UTA Managing Editor
“I hate sex. I hate drugs. And I hate rock ‘n’ roll,” croons Will Wood in the first single from his upcoming album “In Case I Make It.” Despite its rebellious-sounding title, the song is a somber, emotional piano ballad in which the artist laments the image of himself that has arisen from his work. Wood has always been genre-defying, drawing from an eclectic mix of rock, jazz, indie, vaudeville and klezmer. He is known for his extravagant persona and nonconforming style, often performing in a bold face of makeup and high heels. However, in “Sex, Drugs, Rock ‘n’ Roll,” he criticizes the “newsfeeds, groupies, critics, analytics, and starry-eyed stalkers who demand a man in lipstick, and a role model psycho but an echo in their chamber.” Wood’s desire to “re-invent [himself] as an artist” — as stated on the album’s Indiegogo page — is most evident in the song’s bridge: “I hate to be ‘that guy,’ but I’m not that guy anymore. And I made God damn sure he’s dead.” The song’s true gut-punch doesn’t come until the very end, with the line “I hate putting up fourth walls/And I hate proving that I’m still human after all.”
“Valentine” by Snail Mail
Ethan Beck, Contributing Writer
Snail Mail’s newest single, “Valentine,” is a confirmation of excellence. Born Lindsey Jordan, Snail Mail hasn’t released a new album since her debut, “Lush” in 2018. With “Valentine,” the lead single for her upcoming record, Snail Mail makes it clear that nothing about her is a fluke. The song’s atmosphere is uncertain; hovering synthesizers and light drums combine before Snail Mail tears the hesitant tone in two with a giant chorus. “Why’d you want to erase me?” she howls as snarling guitars and crash cymbals explode. The key to “Valentine” is the final line of the chorus, when Snail Mail sings “You’ll always know where to find me when you change your mind,” a melancholy statement that beckons you toward something larger. As a line, it promises that whatever comes next from Snail Mail will be just as captivating and wonderful as “Valentine.”
“Love For Sale” by Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga
Vivian Stockley, Contributing Writer
Lady Gaga has proved her endless talent and versatility once again in her most recent collaboration with jazz legend Tony Bennett. “Love For Sale,” the title track to their upcoming collaborative album, is a lively tribute to a bygone era of big, raucous bands and glamorous jazz singers. Gaga’s full-bodied vocals on the track further cement her credibility as a skillful jazz chanteuse, on par with the likes of Sarah Vaughan and Peggy Lee. This latest rendition of the classic Cole Porter jazz standard, originally composed in 1930, includes all the necessary trappings of a classic jazz record: dramatic trumpet crescendos, a toe-tapping bassline and, of course, a saxophone solo. Bennett, at age 95, has lost none of his charm. From the opening of the track, his vocals are strong and emotional, carrying the song to its first trumpet-driven climax and delivering its catalyst: “She goes to work!” Though the dazzling testimonial to a golden era of popular music sounds like it could have been released 70 years ago, it still refreshes and invigorates today.
“Altar” by Kehlani
Georgia Bern, Contributing Writer
Offering the world a smooth blend of pop and R&B, Kehlani introduces her upcoming album, “Blue Water Road,” with the sweet requiem “Altar.” The song and its music video are different from her punchy past releases, incorporating softer sounds, a somber yet hopeful attitude and more profound lyrics. This shift in tone brings the public closer to a soulful side of Kehlani that hasn’t been seen before, one in which melancholy and celebration are rolled into one. “Altar” mourns the memory of someone who’s passed away, but focuses on the beauty of having had an emotional connection with that person, as opposed to focusing on the pain of the loss. “If I set a flame and I call your name/I’ll fix you a plate, we can go to dinner,” Kehlani sings. Though the lyrics suggest that this person was a lover, it could also very well be any spirit dear to her. “Altar” is a love song in which Kehlani unites her feelings of loss and gratefulness.
“DiE4u” by Bring Me the Horizon
Elissa Lonie, Contributing Writer
After teasing it on TikTok and Instagram, Bring Me The Horizon released their latest single “DiE4u” alongside a futuristic and gory music video. The song is the band’s first release after their 2020 record “POST HUMAN: SURVIVAL HORROR” and the first single in promotion for an unnamed upcoming project, which will be a continuation of the “POST HUMAN” series. Similar to the band’s recent albums, this song has a catchy chorus, containing infectious lyrics and distorted, power-chord-playing guitars. The song also features energetic electronic elements, such as a sticky synth riff that mimics lead singer Oli Sykes’ vocal melody in the chorus. As Sykes belts, “You know you’re everything I hate, wish I could escape/Did you know I would die for you?” he captures the crazed feelings of both loving and hating someone at the same time. With Bring Me The Horizon’s ability to balance metal and pop influences, this song is the perfect listen for anyone still getting over their toxic ex.
“PENDEJO” by Enrique Iglesias
Elizabeth Moshkevich, Contributing Writer
Enrique Iglesias recently released his single “PENDEJO,” reinvigorating the hype and discussion around his presence in the Latin pop scene. The widely respected Spanish singer, who is the so-called king of Latin Pop, shares his desire in “PENDEJO” to end his decades-long music career on a high note. This upbeat, memorable new single is classic Iglesias. Sung in a relaxed, dance-focused rhythm, Iglesias’ lyrics depict him pining over a former lover who has returned to his life. “PENDEJO” highlights Iglesias’ conflicted feelings as his voice drips with both longing and confusion against a backdrop of uplifting reggaetón. A romantic hit for any mood, Iglesias’ single is a success.
“Older” by Alec Benjamin
Lauren Stanzione, Contributing Writer
Alec Benjamin’s new single “Older” explores the singer’s fear of aging. There is a familiarity in the way Benjamin describes the mundane tasks of adulthood, as he sings of cutting his hair, buying new clothes and “taking down the posters.” Benjamin supports his intimate lyrics throughout the production with simple guitar riffs that meld with his soft vocals. Benjamin uses the transition from the bridge to the final chorus, and the contrast between the two sections, to mirror his own overwhelming feelings regarding mortality. Aging is loud and frantic, monotonous and dull. Although Benjamin has yet to announce a new project, “Older” accompanies his summer 2021 release “The Way You Felt,” a love letter to his contrasting desire to both move on from and cling onto his former relationships and self. Coupled together, “The Way You Felt” and “Older” guide his listeners on a developmental journey of self-affirmation and realization, as Benjamins grasps that he is no longer a child, but rather “Older.”
“Call My Name” by Lukas Graham
Paree Chopra, Staff Writer
In “Call My Name,” Lukas Graham sticks true to his roots of drawing in listeners with heartfelt lyrics and gentle acoustic melodies. The song conveys a powerful message, reminding listeners to help those in need while simultaneously encouraging them to ask for help from their loved ones. “So if you need a friend/Someone to hold your hand/Call my name,” Graham sings. Graham’s lyrics and voice are a comfort. He croons passionately from the first verse to the second, with the singular guitar melody building around drums and subtle harmonies in the chorus. In the second chorus and the bridge, the singer repeats, “Just call my name/I’ll be there/And I won’t be far away,” as an orchestra swells alongside his soothing voice. Promoting the song, Graham tweeted that it was “made with love, tears, lots of smiles, and honesty.”
Contact the Music Desk at [email protected]