“Forty-year-olds making pop-punk is not a good look”: Blink 182, Stormzy and more in Singles Club

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 it’s for this reason that the songs reviewed across the next pages are a combination of 12″ vinyl releases, mixtape cuts, SoundCloud uploads and more. This week, D∆WN and Kingdom, Rihanna & Calvin Harris, Blink 182 and more.

Mila J – ‘TBH’

Chris Kelly: Mila J deserves so much more than being “Jhene Aiko’s sister”, but its been two years since ‘Smoke, Drink, Break-up’ and ‘My Main’ and I have no idea who she is as an artist, other than “occasionally drops standard issue, Ty Dolla/Mustardesque West Coast jam”. (5)

Son Raw: R&B’s post-Rihanna, post-Drake mining of dancehall for inspiration is a welcome move and the best parts here are the weird string samples and dutty wine-inducing rhythm. But part of me can’t help but think this is America cleaning up a notoriously rude genre for pop consumption. Block those thoughts out, and this is much more enjoyable. (6)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Mila J has a delivery you either love or hate, a light voice toughened up with attitude borrowed from rap music. On her mixtapes – especially last year’s The Waiting Game – she can fall too far into one camp, sacrificing vocals for rap cosplaying. Here, she splits the difference, never coaxing herself to do much. ‘TBH’ finds her at a happy medium, and even though it’s uneventful, it shows she’s learning to balance her abilities. (6)

Hamda Issa-Salwe: I’m feeling the instrumental, parts of which remind me of Timbaland’s beats, but honestly it’s hard to get past the annoying vocals. Especially the “na na na na na na na na” on the hook (yes, I had to count those out on my fingers). I just can’t help feeling that Mila J makes music for people who like snapbacks, vape tricks and swag quotes. (4)

Tayyab Amin: Mila J has that kind of flow that’s really fun to follow but you’re not gonna remember anything she’s saying outside of the chorus. She’s like some ear infiltrator that leaves no footsteps behind. I’m into the song, I love the beat. It has those infectious squirming synths and Mila’s perfectly cool over the top. (7)


D∆WN – ‘Honest’

Chris Kelly: Been waiting to hear this properly for a year, and it’s worth the wait (obviously). Kingdom knows a thing or two about producing for R&B vocalists, and D∆WN is moving from strength-to-strength these days. The more “honest” R&B tune we’re reviewing this week, no doubt. And that breakdown? Show stopper. (8)

Hamda Issa-Salwe: Maybe I missed something, but this the same D∆WN of Danity Kane and MTV’s Making the Band, right? Well, it looks like she’s bounced back as D∆WN and tbh… I’m kinda into it. The vocals are Brandy-esque and breathy without falling into that modern “whisper-wave” R&B trap. In just 3 minutes and 35 seconds “Honest” had me hurting over some imaginary relationship drama with with a fictional ex. (7)

Son Raw: A tantalizing hint of a better world where R&B stars tap Kingdom instead of Diplo to create music that doesn’t require grand narrative and meme-ready lines to grab your attention. Have breakbeats ever been more teasing and seductive? They practically caress your eardrums. (8)

Tayyab Amin: I dig how amorphous Kingdom’s beat is, it sounds as Fade To Mind as it does ‘12 Exit Records in a pretty cool way. Dawn Richard rides those bass plunges really well and she swings between restraint and full-on confessional in tandem with the stretching instrumental. It feels as if you’re supposed to lose track of the song and fall into an unconscious or emotional stupor before you reach the end. (7)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: I have a bias here, having interviewed Ms. Richard for this very website, but the woman can really not miss the mark when it comes to her music. A sleek, intriguing side-project in prep for the upcoming REDEMPTION. (8)


Stormzy – ‘Scary’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: One of the underrated aspects of Stormzy’s rise is how non-cringey “#MERKY” sounds dropped into the middle of a verse. His voice lends authority to a hashtag, making a trending topic sound like a movement with a battering ram. Here, he’s in unflappable mode, brushing through two gruff verses filled with inside-baseball references to turning down a slot at the Wireless festival and kicking a face like – amazing – Ong-Bak. The video promises in all caps that THE ALBUM IS COMING and the song’s quality makes such brash hype acceptable. (8)

Tayyab Amin: Stormzy does the business, no one should be surprised. “Man keep saying that I’m overrated / I’m like yeah cool, but I’m undefeated”, is the situation in a nutshell really. You need tunes like this for your arsenal and it’s a faultless statement of intent, however I’m not necessarily gonna bump it. I’d love to see Sir Spyro’s instrumental pushed further into choral territory, the streets need a Visionist remix! (7)

Chris Kelly: Stormzy answers questions about whether or not he can turn something other than a classic riddim into a smash in emphatic fashion. Spyro’s Gregorian attack girds two verses of Stormzy’s boasts and threats. But if the “album’s here”, then drop it already! (7)

Hamda Issa-Salwe: Bars like: “You can tell me to shut up / We’ll both say shut up / When I say: ‘Shut Up’, I get a plaque”, serve as little reminders that Big Mike can’t be tested as one of the leaders in the game right now, and the fact that the video cleared a million views in just three days says all there is to say. (8)

Son Raw: “Man keep saying that I’m overrated / I’m like yeah cool, but I’m undefeated” – that’s the key line. Stormzy’s always had a rocky relationship with grime purists – try and find 10 sets he’s done – but he’s got a knack for excising its least approachable elements while retaining as much of the genre’s original energy as possible. Plus, how healthy is the scene when the “crossover act” critics complain about on Twitter is releasing singles with straight bars and no hooks over a Sir Spyro beat? (7.5)


Blink 182 – ‘Bored To Death’

Hamda Issa-Salwe: (3)

Son Raw: It’s not that pop-punk CAN’T be good, it’s that this isn’t. The problem is that instead of reaching out here, Blink 182 hunker down for a self-serious nostalgia anthem custom made for the aging doofuses that still attend their arena tours while complaining about everything that’s happened in music since Green Day’s American Idiot. (3)

Chris Kelly: Forty-year-olds making pop-punk is not a good look, and that’s coming from someone who once sang ‘Dammit’ at live band karaoke. (3)

Tayyab Amin: The first few seconds sounded way too similar to my favourite Ought tune and I can’t begin to convey to you how scared I was in that moment. The verses are really sick, but then that chorus comes in and I can’t remember everything I just heard; why is this guy barking at me? The football chant bridge is the point of no return really. Remember when Travis Barker was all over the hip-hop scene? We’re in a better place now. (4)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Returning from side projects helped Blink-182 make their best album, 2003’s self-titled/untitled record. Returning to those side projects afterwards helped dull the band’s spark, culminating in this song’s audible mix of Mark Hoppus group +44, Travis Barker’s CRASH BANG WALLOP solo drumming and an alternate reality involving Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba on vocals. Instead of a mess, it’s the worse type of compromise – a boring one. (3)


Chief Keef – ‘Violence (Army)’ (ft. CeeLo Green & Tone Trump)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: A (10) to hearing CeeLo rap again, short though it may be, and it’s always a joy to hear Keef take a break from stepping out of his comfort zone to… well, step out of his comfort zone. Lord knows where this came from, but it’s exactly the thing internet-dependent rap misses these days: ingenuity and surprise. (7)

Hamda Issa-Salwe: What an unexpected collaboration. We’ve got Sosa sounding like we haven’t heard him in quite some time on a CeeLo Green-produced beat. The ‘Electric Avenue’ sample gives a funky ‘80s vibe to the tune and this is the first I’ve ever head of Tone Trump but his verse is pretty solid, plus CeeLo rapping Cypress Hill references?? It’s lit. (7)

Chris Kelly: What is this, a Chi-Raq soundtrack B-side? Somebody save Chief Keef from CeeLo, corny ‘Electric Avenue’ samples and himself. (1)

Tayyab Amin: My face is twisted in a fascinated revulsion. I love how Chief Keef experiments. The idea of him being boxed in with a one trick drill sound is laughable, especially when you consider ‘Nobody’, ‘Ain’t Missing You’ and ‘Ride On Me’. Everything about this is ridiculous – the ratatat motorcycle Eddy Grant loop, Keef’s flow casually strutting over the ludicrous beat, and then there’s the rest of it all. CeeLo kinda sounds like he thought he was gonna be on some Sugarhill Gang cut but you know he was sat in his studio like “I love it when a plan comes together”. (8)

Son Raw: This is awful, but it’s spectacularly awful. Like watching a tightrope walker plummet with no net, I’m left both admiring the bravery and unable to turn away at the result. Keef has long left the world of label mandated singles so I have to assume flipping ‘Electric Avenue’ and getting CeeLo to quote Cypress Hill is less bizarre crossover bid and more drug-fueled regrettable decision, but it’s amazing how blurry that line is. And speaking of CeeLo, exactly what circumstances led a 40-year-old Voice judge to spit a hot 16 on a 20-year-old Keef’s street single? The world demands answers. (4)


Rihanna & Calvin Harris – ‘This Is What You Came For’

Hamda Issa-Salwe: After ‘Where Have You Been’ and ‘We Found Love’ Calvin Harris and Rihanna have paired up again on another fist pumper that apparently is all about Calvin’s boo Taylor Swift. ‘This Is What You Came For’ bangs, despite the commonly accepted belief that Riri can’t really sing. She always manages to put out catchy songs, which I like more often than dislike, but hearing her live is the vocal equivalent of getting catfished. (7)

Chris Kelly: Rihanna basically rejected her dance diva crown on ANTI, so thanks to Calvin Harris for getting her back on track. Not as transcendent as ‘We Found Love’, but this still bangs. And is that a ‘Ha’ crash!? (6)

Son Raw: There’s about three-dozen happy hardcore tracks made on Amigas circa 1993 that sound like more exciting versions of this, but it’s unobtrusive, breezy and every 18th birthday needs that one anthem that makes you cringe a few years later. (5)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: After being unfairly deemed either anonymous or robotic for years, this year’s ANTI finally put questions regarding Rihanna’s talent, making her voice and approach to pop music as important as the surrounding ephemera. So it’s disappointing to hear her turned into an automaton for Calvin Harris once more. An acceptable Saturday night jam but in 2016, you shouldn’t be sapping Rih of the power she’s built. (5)

Tayyab Amin: This doesn’t sound bad exactly, it’s just terribly boring. But accumulate that currency RiRi! (5)


Final scores

D∆WN – ‘Honest’ (7.6)
Stormzy – ‘Scary’ (7.5)
Mila J – ‘TBH’ (5.6)
Rihanna & Calvin Harris – ‘This Is What You Came For’ (5.6)
Chief Keef – ‘Violence (Army)’ (ft. CeeLo Green & Tone Trump) (5.4)
Blink 182 – ‘Bored To Death’ (3.2)



Share Tweet