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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: Taylor Swift, Gunplay, Drake, TRC and more.

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Taylor Swift ‘Bad Blood’ (feat. Kendrick Lamar)

Anupa Mistry: Look, I don’t even think Kendrick likes these trite collaborations but they are part of the ecosystem within which he — soulful, black, illuminating Kendrick — works. Surprisingly, I feel better about this than what lies within that apparent vault of Gaga duets. It’s not gussied up as some organic body of work. Kendrick walks into Taylor’s pop playroom, lays down a couple of lukewarm verses about self-respect and dips, cheque in hand. Cool melody on the hook, though. (6.5)

Brad Stabler: Out to this song for reminding me Horsepower Productions exists. Not that the beat is indebted to the aforementioned – it just made me want to listen to HP again, so it gets a boost for reminding me of better tunes. As for the tune at hand, it’s one hell of an empty spectacle, beaming in from an alternate universe where Michael Bay has relevant taste in music. And that’s somehow okay. (7)

Tayyab Amin: I haven’t heard the original, but from what I gather, Kendrick Lamar has come through for a remix where he’s dropped two of his most vanilla verses? That said, it’s not hard to sing along to, which is what counts here I guess. My main issue with this song is there’s no creative chemistry between Swift and Lamar at all. It sounds exactly how it’d look on paper, as in, completely inanimate and lacking dimensions. I’m not mad at the production at all though, I can get with that. (5)

Son Raw: The only person I actually recognized in this video was Kendrick because fuck celebrity culture, although I’ll give Swift and the director props for approximating that pre-Y2K, the-future-is-now aesthetic. As for the song, it’s Taylor’s typical emotional overload, this time with her rap BFF in tow. This won’t knock ‘The Blacker the Berry’ off of my phone, but sometimes you’ve got to play the game – even if your album is basically about survivor’s guilt and a refusal to play the game. (5)

Claire Lobenfeld: Everything about this is aggressive: The hook is aggressively cheesy, the video is aggressively boring and having Kendrick Lamar do most of the song is aggressively reaching for cool points. But a guy in his mid-20s being interested in Taylor Swift is not that interesting! I know people gave him shit for collaborating with a salad chain and now this, which I guess is about as exciting as a salad, is another takedown of Kendrick’s stock, but I kind of feel like this is the ultimate marker of “Who cares?” There is no purity in pop music, right? Anyway, #TeamKaty (2)

Mikey IQ Jones: People aren’t actually excited about this, are they? Taylor Swift doesn’t bother me; her music is entirely safe, harmless pop, just like the personality she’s spent her career cultivating. That’s also the main reason this is so boring – nothing Swift does is dangerous or shocking, and bringing in a rapper like Kendrick just feels pointless. There’s no dynamic between the two of them in the song, and any tension that could’ve been created lyrically is dead on arrival. (3)


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Drake – ‘Can I’

Claire Lobenfeld: Before I actually got a chance to check out this track, I saw a lot of buzz on Twitter that Drake and Beyoncé make better songs together than she makes with Jay Z. ‘Mine’ is phenomenal, but if you think that this is better than ‘Upgrade U’ or ‘Drunk in Love’, we don’t see the world in the same way. I think Sal Houdini sounds great on this, but it’s extremely tepid, beat- and flow-wise. Drake is usually so precise about when he sings versus when he raps and the decision to rap in whatever experimental way he’s trying out (experiment failed, Aubz) was not a good one. Houdini steals the show. (2)

Mikey IQ Jones: First of all, get the fuck outta here with this “featuring Beyoncé” shit. Second of all, when are these clowns going to stop fucking around and just be authoritative and concise about what’s going on with their music? Is it on the album? Is it finished? Am I gonna cry? Is my video enough of a half-baked yet overcooked “statement” to eclipse the rest of the bullshit that is now my career as a public figure? Just suck it up, put it out, and let us hate it in proper context. I don’t even remember what I’ve just heard. I’m done. (1)

Anupa Mistry: Hit 100 plays on this over the weekend. Such a wicked change of pace from the overwhelmingly chest-puffy If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. Feeling the Bey sample and Sal Houdini’s melismatic vox gives off such a unique quality. This was made for low-key late nights blowin’ smoke at Habibiz. (10)

Son Raw: Damn, it sounds like Madonna soul-sucked whatever goodwill Drake had built up this year. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late was my favorite Drake record yet because it (mostly) toned down his singing and self-pitying view of romance in favor of a focus on rap’s process, and his own self-mythology. This is a major step backwards and he basically gets in the way of that Beyonce sample – the song’s one good idea. (2)

Brad Stabler: I know Drake says that all we talk about is him, but if it wasn’t for Beyoncé popping in and out from trap doors this would be a snoozer. Luckily, she and Sal Houdini carry the track to the finish line. Good thing, too – if not ‘Can I’ would fit right on in with the tracks you cut from If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late in iTunes. (6.5)

Tayyab Amin: Watch the Throne is nearly four years old, and I have memories of cringing inside at ‘Lift Off’. Some had said it was perhaps the most unnecessary feature of its time – it was imbalanced, Beyoncé’s presence felt like overkill. Fast-forward to now and I’m doing that infuriating music journo thing of preemptively drawing a narrative; are we entering a new era of unorthodox Beyoncé features? Not a hook or guest verse, something a bit more creative, as seen in Nicki Minaj’s ‘Feeling Myself’ and now Drake’s ‘Can I’, sample or otherwise. I find Sal Houdini’s voice a little jarring texturally, when next to Beyoncé at any rate. Part of me wishes we could hear Justin Bieber have a go at the track too. It sounds like there’s still some way to go before the proper cut but until then it could only be the (6).


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Fis – ‘Happy Alone’

Claire Lobenfeld: This lulled me into a calm I wasn’t expecting. To be physically manipulated by music is always its own feat, but I tend to find it more commonly comes in the form of being brutalized. Not so here and I’m still working out some of the intricacies. (6)

Tayyab Amin: I like this, it’s the advent of a swarm, a perfect storm, tension between lawful and chaotic ways which tug and tear at each other, whittling themselves down to exasperation. (8)

Brad Stabler: I get the feeling that Fis’s new direction (at least on this song) isn’t the free-for-all adding and subtracting of his palette that the press release is making it out to be. More than likely, dude’s just continuing to make jungle-indebted numbers and muting 95% of the drum track when it goes to post. Can’t complain when what’s left is so dark and fun to see unfold. (7.5)

Mikey IQ Jones: Well, this completely fails as ambient music due to the overblown, needling treble of the track’s textural fuzz, and its sluggishly narcotic tempo prevents any momentum from building, so we’re basically getting what out of this melange of shoegazing distortion and “ethnic” synthesized fourth-world percussion? Knackered new age? Take a moment to think about whether or not you really need that in your life, or if that’s a description you’d ever want to hear me or any other writer ever use to describe something. Can this trend of producing third-rate mood music for disgruntled noisenik troglodytes please die a putrid death already? (2)

Son Raw: Is weightless contagious? Fis comes from a completely different school of music than Mumdance & Logos but this fits right in with the textural, beatless avenue they’ve opened up. Go wandering around industrial areas to this. (7)

Anupa Mistry: This track purports to take me somewhere but ultimately never does. (5)


TRC & Princess Nyah – ‘Butterflies’

Anupa Mistry: OMG is it 2001? I love this throwback garage vibe; this one song is better than Disclosure’s entire two-step jacking oeuvre. There I said it. (8)

Tayyab Amin: Yeeeaaaaaa it’s nearly summer. I love music, I love dancing, I love this, I love life, I love Irn-Bru aaaahhhh. Shout out Crazylegs, Solero riddims for days. (8)

Claire Lobenfeld: On paper, this is exactly the kind of thing I would love, but I really feel like no one is trying here. I’ve said it before and it bears repeating: not everything has to break from its model, sometimes you have to make art in its own image. This is one of those things. It’s cute, but it’s not special. (6)

Mikey IQ Jones: I really wanted to like this more. I really did. It unfortunately just ended up leaving the same bitter aspartame aftertaste in my mouth as a sugar-free confection; it looks like garage, and maybe sounds a bit like it, but it’s a pale imitation of the real thing, and isn’t really throwing any plot twists into the mix. I respect TRC’s work, but this ain’t doing it for me. Disclosure really did a fair bit of harm to contemporary producers making modern 2-step tracks with pop sheen, and ‘Butterflies’ unfortunately doesn’t rise to the challenge of eclipsing Settle’s status of recasting garage as fashionable gym workout music. (5)

Son Raw: It’s all in the skip: this kind of pop garage fits into a sugary-sweet mold by design, but TRC’s penchant for 2-steppy swing shuffle helps it blow past your average vocal house. If mainstream radio is gonna bash us in the head with the same 10 pop songs all day, can something like this be one of them? (8)


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Gunplay (feat. YG) – ‘Wushanindoe’

Son Raw: Day 934: still no sign of Medellin – and I still refuse to call it Living Legend. As far as Compton collaborations go, this isn’t anywhere near as exciting as ‘Cartoons and Cereal’ but if it takes a prefab Mustard burner to get that record out the gate, let’s do it, that G-funk lead is perfect and both these guys rap like they mean it. (7)

Mikey IQ Jones: This is more like it. Even sounding like a re-contextualized version of YG’s own ‘BPT’, ‘WuzHaninDoe’ somehow still bumps and bangs, bringing an energy that’s an almost surefire recipe for summer jam status. I’d not hesitate to rewind this within an inch of its life until I never want to hear it again… which probably wouldn’t take long, but still– the energy’s there, and it carries the track well. (7)

Anupa Mistry: YG’s My Krazy Life was a stupid good album, which didn’t get enough love. This song works for me because it leans so far toward that album’s sinister West Coast bounce it could almost be something that was left on the cutting room floor. (Go back and listen to ‘BPT’ and tell me otherwise!) That’s not a complaint though; the hook is perfect for summertime parties, and I love this laidback vibe for the usually manic-Gunplay. Plus YG back! (8)

Claire Lobenfeld: I would think that in 2015, a “Mustard on the beat, hoe” drop would elicit nothing but an eye roll, but it’s cool to hear him incorporating his own sound with a throwback CA vibe. Not a summer banger contender, but totally passable. (6)

Tayyab Amin: When DJ Mustard productions sound similar it’s nothing new, but this does sound like it was on YG’s My Krazy Life, as if it could have been an offcut. At least he’s on here and it bangs as much as ever, even without the gloss and sheen of newness. (7)


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Francesca Belmonte – ‘Are You’

Son Raw: I can’t help but compare this to Taylor, and this shows how a little restraint goes a long way. From the minimalist video to the pattering beat to a few simple vocal effects, Belmonte hints at a world and lets us fill the gaps. Less is definitely more here. (8)

Tayyab Amin: There’s something incredibly limp about, “That’s how good you are.” Belmonte over this beat is lovely to listen to though, it comes across as direct and personal. I’m hanging onto every sound until the backmasked vocals come in and I lose my focus. The production’s tight, even if it does feel a bit sepia – there’s never too much going on and its arms are outstretched for the ones who’ve come to get lost in it. (6)

Claire Lobenfeld: This is some fake deep yogi shit that I don’t care about and is OBVIOUSLY produced by Tricky. He still has the ability to the hit the nail on the head, but I’m just not sure if it’s worth hammering anymore. (4)

Anupa Mistry: If you’re going to do this minimal production/vox thing then you need to either 1) have a sickening melody, 2) be a fantastic singer and pull your tricks out at the right moment, or 3) be capable of giving out some feeling. This track has none of the above — even the backward vocals on the bridge just sounds like a cheap trick. Ugh, I’m insulted by how bland it is despite trying so hard. Sorry Tricky. (3)

Mikey IQ Jones: I’m psyched for Tricky now that he’s found a new muse in Francesca Belmonte; she’s easily the best, most sympathetic and symbiotic vocalist he’s worked with since Martina Topley-Bird, and she seems to bring out a vitality that his worked often failed to possess for years. I dig the total Badalamenti vibes this track brings, and even with a rather pedestrian beat, its nervous twitch and snap suits the vaporous arrangement well. Bonus points for what seems like a further Lynch/Twin Peaks nod with the backmasked verse; it’s a subtle wink that works very, very well whether it’s intentional or not. I’m honestly pretty psyched to hear Belmonte’s album in full – while anything is possible with Tricky at the helm (and it often can spell disaster), I’m optimistic that he may actually have pulled it together for this one. (8)


Final scores:

TRC & Princess Nyah – ‘Butterflies’ (7)
Gunplay (feat. YG) – ‘Wushanindoe’ (7)
Fis – ‘Happy Alone’ (6)
Francesca Belmonte – ‘Are You’ (5.8)
Taylor Swift ‘Bad Blood’ (feat. Kendrick Lamar) (4.8)
Drake – ‘Can I’ (4.7)

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