Page 1 of 7

Each week on the FACT Singles Club, a selection of our writers work their way through the new music of the week gone by.

With the way individual tracks are now consumed, the idea of what constitutes a single has shifted dramatically in the last half a decade, and its for this reason that the songs reviewed across the next pages are a combination of 12″ vinyl releases, mixtape cuts, Soundcloud uploads and more.

Up this week, Skepta, Kanye West and Kelela.

Cashmere Cat – ‘Adore’ (ft. Ariana Grande)

Chris Kelly: The second collaboration between Cashmere Cat and Ariana Grande (with assists from Jeremih, Benny Blanco, Lido and Ammar Malik) isn’t as immediate as ‘Be My Baby’, but it’s just as lush and a welcome addition to Top 40 charts. After a few weeks of debating appropriation, I’m not sure what to make of the “Ha” crash that punctuates this one, and while I haven’t heard anyone in the ballroom community speak out about it, I’d understand their frustration — they’ve been through this before. (7)

William Skar: Funkless pomp that sounds like an offcut from Hudson Mohawke’s Butter – which, lest we forget, came out in 2009. Point by point, there’s plenty of stuff in here that should wet the Skar whistle, but it’s got the charisma of a bollard. (5)

Claire Lobenfeld: Every Ariana Grande track requires a couple listens before you can really make a judgment because ol’ girl has a marble mouth situation that rivals Gucci Mane, but on my third playback of this collab with Cashmere Cat, I was in. It’s the pop game ‘Do You Like Me?’ – irresistibility lovey-and-lusty, the perfect song for when you’re crushing on someone super hard. The production is not super innovative, but it’s cool to hear Ari over trap percussion and are there parts of ‘The Ha Dance’ sampled in there? Sounds like it! Solid pop offering. Between this and ‘Be My Baby’, I like what these two cook up together. Would subscribe. (8)

Son Raw: I honestly wouldn’t know Ariana Grande from a Starbucks drink were it not for Big Sean somehow creeping into my timeline, but this is compulsively listenable. Cashmere Cat’s production is a great look for a pop space with more bad ideas than good at the moment, and Ariana’s soaring vocals can actually go toe to toe with the beat’s bombast. It’s music made for radio I’d actually listen to on my own time, which is a hell of a lot more than what I can say about Dark Sky Paradise. (8)

Selomé Samuel: It makes me unbelievably happy to see Cashmere Cat having mainstream success while still hanging on the the sounds that got him there in the first place. I have a soft spot for Ariana Grande even though these lyrics are complete gibberish (does anyone even try to write lyrics anymore?) – I can’t even be mad though cause it still sounds great. (7)

Brad Stabler: This shit is so plastic, the mp3 should come packed in cling film. (3)

Tayyab Amin: As many have been asking, why the “Ha” motifs on this one? They’re of cultural significance, specifically in vogue/ballroom scenes, and it’s especially irresponsible to erase that when working with such high-profile artists. I’m torn on this one because I find aesthetically pleasing, but I can’t see myself coming back to it much. Still, I definitely have time for any more of Grande and producers of this not-exactly-underground ilk. (6)

Mikey IQ Jones: Playing ‘Adore’ back to back with their previous collab ‘Be My Baby’ gives a really odd sensation, as though someone took the latter and pulled it inside out before slipping it onto their body. The result looks a little more odd, has some threads and tags sticking out, and isn’t really as aesthetically appealing. It’s not a bad track, but it just looks and sounds like an awkward step-sibling to its predecessor. I dig the sound these two create together, but I’m disappointed that more wasn’t brought to the table here. (6)


Skepta – ‘Shutdown’

Son Raw: It’s a testament to Skepta’s work ethic over the year that he’s still an underdog you want to root for, even with the Drake and Kanye cosigns. This is ‘That’s Not Me’ part 2 minus the Eski beat, but that’s not a bad thing in my book and if this somehow takes off in New York and injects some new ideas into their scene, he’ll have my eternal gratitude. Oh and Drake, you made it a hot Vine, he made it a hot song. (8)

Selomé Samuel: We’ve all been waiting for years for Skepta to break in the US, right? Regardless of what the future of grime is in the states, this track is fire. It’s smart, self-aware and impossible to resist. Can’t wait to hear this out in a dark, sweaty club, and praying to the rap gods for a proper collab with Drizzy. (9)

Mikey IQ Jones: While not shocking or revolutionary by any means, Skepta sounds strong, assertive, and on-point over a simple but tough beat – it’s precisely the type of banger he should be releasing amidst the frenzy and hubbub of “Kanye and Drake supporting grime,” and it doesn’t even need those Drizzy samples to be witty and entertaining. If this is a sign of what Konnichiwa‘s going to be delivering, we’re in for an absolute killer of an album. Take note, Kanye – you want to sound authoritative and commanding, grabbing a listener’s attention via deceptively simple yet infectious accoutrements? This is how you do it. Singles Club is shut down. (8)

William Skar: A creditable follow-up to ‘That’s Not Me’, which, given expectations,should be chalked up as an achievement. The beat on this is a little pallid (and oddly reminiscent of something off Roots Manuva’s Awfully Deep) but Skepta’s writing is still superb – precise, mechanical and pathologically hooky. (7)

Chris Kelly: Say what you will about Kanye and Drake’s recent interest in grime, but more people hearing ‘Shutdown’ (and going back and hearing ‘That’s Not Me’, etc.) is only a good thing. And Skepta knows the deal: that Vine sample and BRIT skit proves that the cultural communion works both ways. (7)

Claire Lobenfeld: From the side of the pond where I’m writing this, grime is an import, and one that is probably going to be shipped in a lot after a Kanye co-sign. I am not an expert on the genre but I know enough to know that this isn’t dude’s best work or, at least, isn’t really touching ‘That’s Not Me’. You know what would be amazing, though? If Skepta ends up inverting the idea of the Drake co-sign (a la Migos and Makonnen) by sampling him instead of him basically stealing another artist’s song. Oh and, “Don’t eat pussy? Liar, you are just an actor.” YAAAS, SKEPTA. YAAAAAS. (7)

Brad Stabler: In the midst of all this crossover talk Skepta brings the nastiest moment of clarity imaginable with ‘Shutdown’, and hope my neighbours like it. I never thought I’d say this after rinsing ‘That’s Not Me’ last year, but Skepta’s actually one-upped himself. I’m going to keep the politics and the possibilities to myself about the state of grime in 2015 (at least for a little while), but if bangers like this keep coming one after another it’s going to be a good year. (10)

Tayyab Amin: ‘Shutdown’ is a remarkably efficient track; it feels like Skepta knows he’s doing it big nationally (‘That’s Not Me’ reference) and internationally (Drake samples, right after a Kanye co-sign), he knows what’s happening underground (‘Take Time’ reference?), plus he can still make a grime buzzword take off with little effort. Low-key feel a bit parred when he goes, “You’re not on your deen”. I know fam, I know. (8)


Kanye West – ‘All Day’ (ft. Theophilus London)

Tayyab Amin: What does it mean to be successful? Is it when West can mesh his aggressive and sparse musical influences and apply them to his My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy framework which is so often described as maximalist? What does it mean to be successful? Is it the frequency and depth with which West is compared to previous phases of his own self, despite the lack of originality sometimes attributed to him? What does it mean to be successful? Is it being able to trade in a rambling Justin Vernon and upgrade to a Paul McCartney that goes all Tarantino at the end of your track? On ‘All Day’, West won’t be denied his success. (9)

Brad Stabler: Welcome back, Mr. West. I’m glad that you’re taking it easy on the lullabies and the grocery store checkout bangers because even though I liked ‘Only One’ (and that other song, too, I guess), I’m most relieved to hear something with at least half the fangs that were bared on Yeezus. (8)

Chris Kelly: With each successive release Kanye has flipped the script, from Beatle-assisted ballads about family and fighting to 808s and Heartbreak revivals and, now, to Yeezus-styled epics. ‘All Day’ is the sonic equivalent of 30 goons on stage burning down polite society with a blowtorch. Kanye Derangement Syndrome (knee-jerk hatred of anything he does) is a bummer, but no one said being the king was easy. (9)

William Skar: Between ‘The Blacker The Berry’ and the rise of Zuse, it seems that strangulated ragga vocals are the rap trope du jour. Kanye sometimes struggles to balance his experimental and cornball impulses, and ‘All Day’ is hardly his most dextrous track, but between the the strobing synths, ‘Trans-Europe Express’ pads and gurgling outro, there’s stacks to tuck into. (8)

Selomé Samuel: Announcing that you’re going to “surprise drop” your album kind of defeats the whole point, right? Anyway, I forever love me some Kanye. It’s hard for these tracks not to be amazing, given the sheer number of people involved, but I’m still glad that he’s back. The production level kind of detracts a bit from how raw I think he wants it to feel, but the important messages still seep through. Shoutout to calling the Grammys sus on a track – so on brand. (9)

Mikey IQ Jones: For as much trap-flapping as this clown loves to do, he’s not saying a word of worth, and that’s a shame because I really love the beat until that idiotic wannabe prog outro. The entire track loses momentum about three and a half minutes in, and for real: if you’re going to swagger and puff out your chest about how you’re a god, a legend, the new pop, America’s new favorite beverage, whatever, stop fucking around and deliver the goods. This is entirely disposable, and after that Skepta track, additionally pointless. (3)

Claire Lobenfeld: Sorry to be the Precious Police here, but I’m not listening to any more Kanye songs out of the context of the album sequencing. This is me. (n/a)

Son Raw: Where to start? Why does the intro sound like ‘Power’ part 2? If ‘So Help Me God’ is BBQ music, what does Kanye West serve at his BBQs? Was Paul McCartney aware of the amount of N-bombs on this song when he added that bizarre whistle coda? What is the radio version going to sound like? Is that a modular synth on the outro? Can we get Young Thug and Migos on the remix? Most importantly however, I’m left wondering where Kanye’s going to go next and when the damn album is going to drop. He did it again. (8)


Loading Video…

Kelela – ‘A Message’

Claire Lobenfeld: The most important thing for Kelela to do post-Cut 4 Me is continue to finesse and advance her sound. While the production on her mixtape was impeccable, it’s clear from even just this track that she and Arca have something special when they work together. He completely nails when to make the beat just completely disappear, amplifying how truly gut-wrenching it is to be dumped, even when sung about with Kelela’s beautiful, impenetrable voice. (9)

Mikey IQ Jones: Oh, hell yes. Fully on board with the heavy Janet Jackson circa The Velvet Rope vibes of this track, and Arca helps update that aesthetic while drawing out a musky, smoldering sensuality that perfectly underpins and emphasizes the heart pumping through the lyric’s bloodletting conceits. If this is what DIDN’T make it onto her album, damn. Remember all of the frenzy surrounding FKA Twigs last year? Let’s give that to Kelela in 2015, please. (9)

Selomé Samuel: It’s been awesome to see Kelela’s rise not just as a black female in electronic music (of which there are far too few), but as a talented artist in her own right. This track is gorgeous, super sexy and sad and feels a bit more three dimensional than some of her earlier work. Can’t wait for more. (8)

Tayyab Amin: Kelela is the only artist who makes me feel the same feelings that struck me when I’d listen to early-00s R’n’B, and definitely not in a nostalgic way. Hearing her grow and grow is a blessing. (7)

Son Raw: I’m sure there’s a ton of nerdy R&B references going over my head in this song but ultimately, it doesn’t matter if this hits me in the head as long as it hits me in the pants: I’ll drunkenly make out with someone to this after coming back from the club, and that’s what counts with this sort of thing. (7)

William Skar: Obsidian coral. Flirts with torpor but, for the most part, avoids the PBR&B punji trap. (7)

Chris Kelly: A collaboration two years in the making, ‘A Message’ is both one of Kelela’s most striking vocal performances and one of Arca’s best productions — neither a small feat. “I won’t shed a tear / ’cause waterworks are easy” is just heartbreaking, and Kelela does more with the pregnant pause between “ex” and “girlfriend” than most people do with words. If this didn’t make the cut, can you imagine how good this album is going to be? (10)

Brad Stabler: Cut 4 Me‘s sole setback had to do with the amount of cooks involved: with so many producers trying to get a word in there was always a sense of detachment. It’s been fun to watch her push outwards over 2014, but ‘A Message’ might be the moment where she finally busts all the way out into the open. Make no mistake, this is the kind of tune she’s had in her for a long time. It’s oddly satisfying to hear Arca pull the same amount of spatial exercises and atmosphere that brought FKA Twigs into the fold the same year as Cut 4 Me, but the real lynchpin is Kelela’s turn, ducking in and out of pauses, leering and sneering in equal measure. The result is fantastic. (9.5)


Loading Video…

Funkstörung – ‘Laid Out’ (ft. Anothr)

Mikey IQ Jones: Well, this wasn’t an ensemble I’d expected to attempt any sort of comeback, I must admit, and I’m not really sure that I missed them all that much after hearing this. I was psyched at the prospects of its Autechre’n’B vibe for a few seconds, and then the vocal came in. Anothr’s voice doesn’t particularly work well in accentuating the strengths of this track, and ends up dragging it down into rather fey and floppy-brimmed ineffectuality. A shame, really, as with the right voice up front, this could’ve been a commanding tune. (4)

Selomé Samuel: I’ve never listened to any of their previous work, so I lack the context or expectations that go along with a group’s first release in nearly a decade. That all said, this track is blissful and makes me want to dive deeper into their discography. (8)

William Skar: Here she be – the most Monkeytown record of all time. (6)

Son Raw: When the beat came in, I was bracing myself for another track more concerned with the equipment it was made on than the listener’s enjoyment, but wait a minute, that vocal is pretty soulful! At under two and a half minutes, it’s a bit slight but hey – it doesn’t wear out its welcome either. (6)

Tayyab Amin: It’s nice, but for me it needs a little more bite in order to leave a mark. (4)

Claire Lobenfeld: This doesn’t illicit much of a response from me. It’s technically proficient and has a few bits that are interesting — although, for at least one thing that made me go, “Oh, that’s pretty cool,” it was because it sounded like something from ‘Windowlicker’. I would have actually liked for this to have been at least a minute, if not more, longer. Right as it was beginning to build and possibly go somewhere a little bit more interesting, it just ended. I could have used a little bit more. (4.5)

Brad Stabler: Have enjoyed earlier material, so I really wanted to like this one just based off the mighty industrial chug that kicks it off. Unfortunately, at 2:18, it’s a whole lot of nothing. So I’m proposing a couple of hypothetical improvements: take the vocals back a little (and don’t display ’em on screen), give that beat a boost, and extend it outwards for a minute more and there might actually be something here that’s worth the 90-second build to nowhere. (5)


Om Unit & Sam Binga – ‘Wei’

Son Raw: Wot do you call it? Tempo and sound design wise, this slots neatly into drum & bass, except it seems determined to do everything in its power not to sound like that genre, even at its most experimental. Both of these guys have been forging their own paths in up-tempo post-D&B (I’m sorry, I’ll never use that term again I swear) and this is another winner. Where can I hear a whole set of this stuff? (7)

Claire Lobenfeld: This is giving me super Buffy the Vampire Slayer vibes — Kristy Swanson, not Sarah Michelle Gellar — and I dig it. It’s a grower, too, and I like that between this and ‘Onionz’, they’re defying the traditions of drum ‘n’ bass. I’m excited to hear the rest of the EP. (7.5)

Brad Stabler: One of the reasons Om Unit has always been captivating is that none of his tunes are content with just staying put and letting a groove just groove. Over time he’s got looser and looser with textures and hooks, refusing to milk just one idea but instead introduce about 10 of them and make them all hang together. It’s bold, and nixing most of the drums only makes it more so. Still haven’t been let down once by the guy. (8)

William Skar: It’s tagged as #weirdstep, but weird this is not – a fairly timid sortie into sinogrime. The drum programming is nice, but ‘Wei’ never really takes off. (6)

Tayyab Amin: The first thought that occurred to me as I saw this track listed was, “I know what this is going to sound like.” A foolish thought, and doubly so as Om Unit and Sam Binga reveal a simultaneously gritty and crystalline piece that strings along its own untold (and no-doubt stellar) narrative. (7)

Mikey IQ Jones: What I love about this is that the synth textures tap into an odd strain of nostalgia that reminds me of mid-’80s Euro fantasy film scores and the dangerous gray area between quiet storm singles and Weather Channel daily forecasts. I actually want to hear Kelela sing over this – now THAT would be a banger. (7)

Selomé Samuel: Wow, I can’t believe I liked every song this week. The variety of textures here is surprising but works amazingly well. (9)


Final scores:

Kelela – ‘A Message’ (8.3)
Skepta – ‘Shutdown’ (8)
Kanye West – ‘All Day’ (ft. Theophilus London) (7.7)
Om Unit & Sam Binga – ‘Wei’ (7.3)
Cashmere Cat – ‘Adore’ (ft. Ariana Grande) (6.3)
Funkstörung – ‘Laid Out’ (ft. Anothr) (5.3)

Read this next: 
The 100 greatest track titles in dance music history

Page 1 of 7


Share Tweet