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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: Bieber, Miley, Jeezy, Siouxsie and more.

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Justin Bieber – ‘What Do You Mean?’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: A disappointing piece of drip-drop pan-pipe pop-house that heralds a turn in the wrong direction – returning to the EDM-pop that made up the weakest parts of Believe and retconning the R&B passion project Journals is not the best look. (5)

Son Raw: There’s a stab at maturity here but it’s so half-hearted that you have to assume it’s what the label’s focus groups demanded rather than genuine artistic impetus. Bieber has never been an interesting musician – he had a voice and the looks to become a celebrity but anyone who thinks he’ll magically develop talent must have spent their childhood in a poptimist indoctrination camp. (2)

April Clare Welsh: For all the pomp and ceremony of the VMAs and the overly stylised L.A. Confidential-esque video, this is basically just a really weak song with no hooks and a cold trickle of pan flute trance. IMO it’s a thinly-veiled excuse for Bieber to get off with another hot girl, but it doesn’t matter what I think because he’s just scored his first UK No.1 with it so he’ll be laughing all the way to the hot tub. However, the fact that it’s broken One Direction’s streaming record and hit the 3.2 million mark does make me hate the Internet (1D are so much better.) (5)

Tayyab Amin: Journals Bieber was tight and I’m quite into tropical, I-need-to-catch-that-Cheerleader-Remix-glo Bieber too. This feels endlessly listenable from where I’m sat right now. But Biebz is out here asking “What Do You Mean?” whilst sending mixed messages himself. His VMA performance topped off his climb back to the general good side of public opinion, and then he drops a video like this. It’s very easy to relate his lyrics to sexual consent in particular thanks to the opening of that chorus, but what does orchestrating a staged kidnap to that appears to risk your loved one’s life for the sake of testing trust say about consent? At least the last video had illuminati conspiracy theories. (8)

5

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Leif – ‘Koi’

April Clare Welsh:  Le1f is “hotter than bikram yoga” and this song is such a scorcher that if you play it directly after ‘What Do You Mean?’, it’ll probably give you chilblains. I love the chipmunk vocals, the post-internet Dali visuals and the nod to voguing, but for someone surrounded by giant googly eyes, he doesn’t half look bored. Aside from that, it’s a supercharged burst of 900000v of joy which reminds me how much I love the Internet. (8)

Son Raw: I’m desperately trying to avoid the low budget Nicki Minaj vibe here… but let’s face it, this is low budget Nicki Minaj with a bit of Azaelia Banks’ sea-punk phase thrown in for good measure. (4)

Tayyab Amin: I wish this carried more weight than it does. It feels like Le1f is bridging too much of the gap and the beat isn’t meeting him halfway; it sounds lopsided. Hopefully it’s something that works out on a future collaboration, ‘cause I do think the potential is there and we already know they can do it solo. (5)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Personally speaking, my favourite type of Le1f song is the type that sways low-tempo and seductive. They give his croaky drawl space to reverberate and gain power; on busier tracks like ‘Koi’ that voice strains hard against the music, trying not to get swallowed up. This is a middling song but Le1f remains nothing less than likeable, the kind who’ll brush off suitors in the middle of a turn-up attempt with a Dragon Ball Z joke. (6)

5.8

Nicole Dollanganger – ‘You’re So Cool’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Premium grade Teen Movie Sex Music. Ms Dollanganger is about to score so many Dane DeHaan hook-up scenes. (7)

Son Raw: I swear I’m going to hunt down anyone who samples that opening vocal as part of a wistful house/garage tune and beat them with a sharp stick. That said, turns out replacing the growling dude-bro vocals in this type of grungy shoegaze with a near-chipmunk coo works surprisingly well. (7)

April Clare Welsh: This sounds like Hope Sandoval on helium which is just plain wrong. I’m tickled that one SoundCloud commenter has written; “if this song is sex then I’m a nymphomaniac,” because they must have flicked onto the wrong channel – this is so unsexy it’s like a Mennonite orgy. OK, I get that she’s wringing every drop of emotion from her vocal chords but The Empire Records people called and they want their fake teen angst back. (6)

Tayyab Amin: This sounds like it could become one of Aaron Sorkin’s awkward soundtrack picks for when he prematurely kills off the only vaguely redeemable character in the series. Shallow build up into something hollow and when that male-sounding vocal comes in the textures are jarring. Lyrics aren’t for me either, listening to them feels like rummaging through someone’s old embarrassing high school diary and I’m not fully into that. (4)

6

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Siouxsie Sioux – ‘Love Crime’

April Claire Welsh: Apparently Hannibal approached Siouxie about doing this song and that kind of softens the blow. I understand that synching is the way forward but if you’re punk, you’re punk, and I don’t think I could even hum a TV show tune because they’re all so forgettable. This one is full of languid gothic promise though, and Siouxie’s voice does sound all spooky and windy and serpentine, but it just goes on for too long without really going anywhere. At least she’s not doing insurance ads. (6)

Son Raw: Much like Hannibal, this seems cultured and well mannered but there’s a deceptive edge underneath. Ultimately though, much like Hannibal, this type of trip hop was far more exciting in the 90s. (6)

Tayyab Amin: Slick when she starts singing the second round over the eerie ambience and the late hours instrumental sweeps back in. It’s so difficult capturing moments that isolate listeners and then bring them all back into such a communal experience. It strikes a nice balance between approachable and melodramatic, avoiding heading overboard and taking you out of the moment. (7)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Hannibal is not a show I’ve ever seeked out, but this gloomy cut from the recent series finale is used to soundtrack an overwrought hook-up in the room from the Sneaker Pimps’ ‘6 Underground’ video, right? Should I be watching Hannibal? (5)

6

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Miley Cyrus – ‘Karen Don’t Be Sad’

Son Raw: Now see, unlike Biebs, Miley has proven that she has an actual personality. It might the same personality as that white girl in junior year who switched from booty shorts and EDM to tie dye and plastic weed leaf pendants over the summer, but it’s a personality. I’d rather see MikeWillMadeIt focus on rappers I care about and the Flaming Lips haven’t done much for me since Yoshimi, so this is optimal use of everyone’s time. (7)

Tayyab Amin: So this is how Cyrus (and Wayne Coyne I guess) get to sleep each night? I’m not sold on her “the whole world is against me” narrative here. Even if I was, and I was Karen, this wouldn’t exactly fill me with confidence either. It sounds less like a ballad or lullaby and more like the movie soundtrack for the scene where most of the protagonists get wiped out on the enemy’s doorstep in slo-mo. And if you don’t care for the protagonists, it’s all just a bit drawn out and boring. (4)

April Clare Welsh: I’m glad they’ve finally consummated their artistic relationship but this is less about collaboration and more about puppetry; Miley is singing from the Wayne Coyne hymn sheet as Floyd the ghost dog barks orders. That said, it is really pretty and shows Miley in a rare moment of vocal restraint. (8)

6.3

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Young Jeezy – ‘God’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: TM88 and Southside cut an edge off Quincy Jones’ ‘Ironside’ theme (you may know it as the Kill Bill revenge theme), threw it on Young Thug’s ‘Danny Glover’ and tweaked Atlanta rap music with one blare. It’s the sound that won’t die, as evidenced by its inclusion in ‘God’, but on this otherwise standard pre-album Jeezy track, it sounds like hell peaking open. That’s Jeezy’s strength: he upgrades ticks into grandeur. (6)

Son Raw: Ugh, that cover art: now I know how LL Cool J fans felt circa ‘Walking like a Panther’. Attempts to position himself as the 2015 X-Clan aside, it’s clear that Jeezy’s time is up: the flow is halting, the beat is archaic and stylistically he’s trapped in an era where you could get by on your adlibs. (3)

Tayyab Amin: I like Jeezy and I love this beat that’s constantly teetering on the edge, but he never really fills it out and the pockets of space are laborious more than anything else. I’m really into the first and last couple of bars being reflected across verses though, that’s hella strong but this needs a guest to shine. (6)

April Clare Welsh: It feels like music is at a kind of political fever pitch right now and it’s about bloody time. If Jeezy’s new album is anything like this moody slab of opiate drill, and is as socially-conscious and as politically-charged as he’s promised, then I can’t wait to hear it. (8)

5.8

Final scores:

Miley Cyrus – ‘Karen Don’t Be Sad’ (6.3)
Nicole Dollanganger – ‘You’re So Cool’ (6)
Siouxsie Sioux – ‘Love Crime’ (6)
Young Jeezy – ‘God’ (5.8)
Leif – ‘Koi’ (5.8)
Justin Bieber – ‘What Do You Mean?’ (5)

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