Susan Behrends Valenzuela
This week we review two songs by NYU alumni. The Venezuelan producer Arca and New Jersey native FLETCHER both attended the Clive Davis Institute at NYU. Arca pushes the boundaries of electro-pop in her latest single “Born Yesterday,” while FLETCHER takes a more traditional pop route in her new song “girls girls girls.” Besides these two, we also review songs by rock band Black Country, New Road and veteran pop artist James Blake. Read on for more.
“Born Yesterday” by Arca featuring Sia
Yas Akdag, Music Editor
Arca’s latest single, “Born Yesterday,” is glitchy electro-pop brilliance. Ambient chords and pads lay the song’s foundation as electronic percussion comes skittering in. This percussion has a peculiar sound, reminiscent of insects batting their wings or a helicopter whirring its rotors. It’s Arca’s typical production style — mechanical, robotic, slippery and so fast-paced that if you blink you might miss it. Sia’s vocals sit front and center; she sings with the power and gusto she’s known for. In the herculean chorus, she soars, singing “I wasn’t born yesterday/And I am not your baby anymore” while light synth flourishes skip across the sonic field. It is impossible to grip onto one single sound here. That’s why Arca holds off on featuring a driving, four-on-the-floor kick drum until the second chorus. For Arca, the more unsettling and unstable the production, the better. As the song builds to a close, Arca stacks Sia’s vocals, even using a vocoder effect. At the same time, the percussion and wide, wobbly synth swell, disorienting the listener. This sensation is confirmation — for me, at least — that Arca never fails to surprise. Arca’s upcoming fifth album, “KICK ii,” will be released Dec. 3.
“Chaos Space Marine” by Black Country, New Road
Holden Lay, Staff Writer
“Chaos Space Marine” signals an enthralling and unexpected direction for Black Country, New Road. The single acts as a teaser to the band’s newly announced sophomore record, “Ants From Up There.” In the new single, the band’s signature industrial and experimental elements melt into a blend of jaunty major key piano, country violin and a — dare I say — Springsteen-esque horn section. Black Country, New Road’s eclectic and referential lyrics also return, with lines like “I’m coming home/Billie Eilish style” and “I’m becoming a worm now/And I’m looking for a place to live.” The band seems to be having more fun than ever. It’s thrilling to see them resist complacency after having mastered their sound on last year’s debut “For the first time.” Here’s to hoping every song on the upcoming “Ants From Up There” is as tight and propulsive as this one.
“girls girls girls” by FLETCHER
Yas Akdag, Music Editor
Reimagining Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl,” FLETCHER’s pop anthem “girls girls girls” is a celebration of queer love. Over thick, punchy bass and syncopated trap drums — courtesy of frequent producer and collaborator Kito — FLETCHER sings about having girls on her mind. “I told my mom it’s not a phase,” she sings, before bursting into the familiar chorus, “I kissed a girl and I liked it/Sipped her like an old fashioned.” With tight songwriting, production and structure, “girls girls girls” is just as infectious as the song it samples. Thankfully, though, it contains less queerbaiting. Switching out the original’s hetero-centric lyrics “I kissed a girl just to try it/I hope my boyfriend don’t mind it,” FLETCHER opts for “I kissed a girl and she liked it/It’s better than I imagined.” In the midst of LGBTQ+ history month, “girls girls girls” is a great song to blast.
“Coming Back” by James Blake featuring SZA
Yas Akdag, Music Editor
“Coming Back” is a spacy, broody earworm. The song opens with a plunky piano chord loop as James Blake sings softly and wistfully. “So I’m coming back, coming back, coming back, coming back/‘Cause it hurts, ‘cause it hurts like the end of the world,” he laments, before floating up into falsetto on the final line of the chorus: “So I take it all, take it all, take it all back.” Then enters SZA. The production changes, with the piano traded for an arpeggiated, video-game-esque synth, a trap beat and a thumpy bass. “Your first mistake was wanting me when you know I wasn’t ready/You put that shit down heavy/Couldn’t let you regret me,” SZA sings. It’s signature SZA songwriting — confessional, straightforward, gut-punching, improvised and polished. “Coming Back” has an arrangement that, by constantly introducing new material, guarantees you’re kept on your toes. It seems to be split into three distinct parts: the muted piano intro, the SZA trap verse that occupies the middle of the song and, finally, the organ-accompanied outro where Blake and SZA’s vocals cross and meld. “Coming Back” has emerged as one of the most popular tracks off of Blake’s latest album, “Friends That Break Your Heart.” It’s pretty clear why.
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