Listen to This: Caroline Polachek dazzles in new song ‘Billions’

Read about this week’s most notable singles by Father John Misty, Alexander 23 and more.


Susan Behrends Valenzuela

(Illustration by Susan Behrends Valenzuela)

Caroline Polachek dropped her latest single, “Billions”, on the same day she started touring with Dua Lipa — talk about having a full plate. And love him or hate him, Ed Sheeran returned with an irresistible, tried-and-true Taylor Swift collaboration. Read on for more.

“Billions” by Caroline Polachek

Isabella Armus, Deputy Arts Editor

In Caroline Polachek’s new mystical epic “Billions,” the artist takes her haunting vocal range and signature striking production in a more grandiose direction. Fluttering between octaves and glitchy refrains, Polachek sings of “Sexting, sonnets / Under the tables” and a figure who “Lies like a sailor / But he loves like a painter”; her vocal control is reminiscent of both an opera starlet and a modern Björk. The song’s five-minute runtime plays out like a glazed soundscape — aiming to both mesmerize and perplex — with not one section sounding quite like the other. The track closes out on a high as guest vocalists, Croydon’s Trinity Choir, repeat “I never felt so close to you” for the last minute, enveloping the track in a final swish of opulent drama. Though these sonic elements could’ve been done with a heavy hand, Polachek’s art-pop aesthetic is well-oiled and easily follows through on the affective promises of its medium. It proves that her sound still has a lot of untapped potential and could reach new heights in the releases to come.

“Q4” by Father John Misty

Holden Lay, Staff Writer

Father John Misty sheds his usual piano for guitar on the baroque-folk “Q4.” A plucky harpsichord serves as the perfect compliment to his soaring vocals, as he sings: “Simone writes little love, much consequence / Lest the theater’s how you pay the rent / A new work of some semi-memoir sits / Inside the weekend book editor’s desk.” His satire skillfully straddles the line between being both loveable and a pretentious inside joke. Nevertheless — due to the upbeat tightness of the production on this track — there is a striking sincerity here, one that he typically withholds. While Father John Misty’s lyrics are as meandering and bitingly funny as ever, this definitely falls on the more melodically oriented pop side of his songwriting. “Q4” is a lot more straightforward than his previous single — the warped orchestral torch song “Funny Girl” — but together, they signal a grand and exciting throwback sound for his upcoming LP “Chloë and the Next 20th Century.” After 2018’s esoteric and darkly surreal “God’s Favorite Customer,” it’s interesting to see Father John Misty put out a song as shimmering, gorgeous and infectious as this one.

“Hate Me If It Helps” by Alexander 23

Yas Akdag, Music Editor

On “Hate Me If It Helps,” Alexander 23 is as ambitious as he’s ever been. Co-written with Dan Nigro and Olivia Rodrigo, the songwriting is stellar, combining Alexander 23’s romantic sensibilities and Rodrigo’s youthful tendencies to craft a song full of modern, detailed storytelling. “I wonder if your therapist likes me / I guess it depends on how much of the truth you tell to her,” Alexander 23 sings over light guitar strums. Don’t be fooled, though — the chorus is huge, with stop-starts featuring punk-like overdriven guitars and crash cymbals. Somehow, the bridge is even more massive, consisting of a delightfully fresh chord progression and hyper-specific, biting lyrics — “I’m sorry I paid for your SSRIs / For making you happy I apologize” — that have Rodrigo written all over them. His first single since his 2021 EP, “Oh No, Not Again!,” “Hate Me If It Helps” demonstrates Alexander 23’s growth and hints at a new musical style.

“The Joker and The Queen” by Ed Sheeran feat. Taylor Swift

Candace Patrick, Staff Writer

Taylor Swift joins Ed Sheeran in the remix of his track, “The Joker and The Queen,” transforming the already soothing song into an even more lullaby-like duet. A metaphorical card game plays out between the two as they muse back and forth about a vulnerable love story. In a near-whisper, Sheeran sings, “And I know you could fall for a thousand kings / And hearts that would give you a diamond ring / When I fold, you see the best in me / The joker and the queen,” conveying sweet sentiments of unequivocal love. The first two verses are backed by a delicate piano melody, but upon Swift’s entrance, the production builds slightly, adorning the song with echo-like harmonies and symphonic strings. The accompanying music video also serves as a nostalgic timepiece, featuring the same child actors — now teenagers — from the “Everything Has Changed” music video, the pair’s first collaboration back in 2012 for Swift’s album “Red.” The two superstar songwriters are longtime friends and frequently team up to produce top hits — this charming release is another addition to their growing list of collaborations. To put it simply, “The Joker and The Queen” is a royal flush. 

“Valentine” by Laufey

Brian Savino, Contributing Writer

Laufey’s new single, “Valentine,” brings youthful energy to classic vocal jazz. She poetically sings of her new love — including comedic quips about accidentally calling him pretty — while ruminating on her own uncertainty about the future, a familiar reality for many listeners. Laufey backs her vocals with soft guitar strums, laid-back jazz piano and polyphonic background vocals, lending “Valentine” a sophisticated aura while maintaining its young and lively character. With this single, Laufey continues to transform the smooth jazz of the past into something accessible to a new generation of listeners.

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