Features I by I 16.05.17

Singles Club: Miley’s ‘Malibu’ is like something out of a Fyre Festival ad

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

Miley Cyrus leaves her hip-hop and Flaming Lips-led psychedelic experiments behind this week, returning with a new song (‘Malibu’) more in keeping with her country pop beginnings. There’s also another new Calvin Harris track teaming up with a rap A-lister: this time it’s Future, who lends a hand alongside rising star Khalid to ‘Rollin’ (not a Limp Bizkit cover sadly.)

Add to the pile new efforts from Mount Kimbie, Lil Yachty and Danny L Harle, and we’d say it’s a bit of a blockbuster week for new singles. So without further ado, here’s what our reviewers made of them.

Calvin Harris featuring Future and Khalid – ‘Rollin’

Chal Ravens: What. Are. These. Piano. Progressions. Every Calippo summer of my childhood is coming back at once, here – there’s a hot-tarmac whiff of ‘California Love’, an MTV afternoon’s worth of Stardust, and those false-memory-of-rave pianos. It’s understated and chill and daringly slow-motion in a way that music built for radio practically never is – you could imagine it popping up on the new Matt Martians album, it’s that indebted to the spartan steeze of the Neptunes. Future sounds wicked, the chorus is in my head and I’m off to the shops for a Calippo. (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Continuing Harris’ starry exploration of rubbery funk aesthetics, this is a track where Future tries on an old flow and makes it sound new again. It’s fine. (6)

Carl Anka: Calvin Harris’ reinvention as a credible funk-pop producer is one of 2017 music’s best side stories. Mostly because… he’s nailing it? Never goes too flashy, always gets the right collabs, and lets them do the heavy lifting while he builds impressive soundboards. This is a swaggy sockless summer banger. (8)

Jibril Yassin: What ‘Rollin’ has going for it is an understated confidence, a little bit of darkness hidden in the glossy, Studio 54-style production and likely the best use of guest talent so far. Newcomer Khalid brings out a layer of melancholy and Future is out here sounding glorious in scumbag FUTURE mode. (7)

Haley Potiker: Tapping Khalid to jump on a song with Future seems like an inspired idea, but this is Calvin Harris, the king of throwing a bunch of shit at the wall and not really caring what sticks. This is funky and summery enough, but like nearly all of Harris’ work, feels like far less than the sum of its parts. (5)


Lil Yachty – ‘Bring It Back’

Tayyab Amin: Well, I hope everyone who got at Yachty for playing flagbearer for the new generation without paying enough old school dues is happy now. It’s fascinating how starkly different ‘Peek A Boo’ and now ‘Bring It Back’ are to his signature style, considering that they’re the first two singles from his debut album. Of course, it’s very easy to forget that the young star is likely still experimenting and finding his own voice. This ain’t my jam but it’s still a jam in its own way – keep doing you, Yachty. (6)

Carl Anka: Few things in this world are more pure than Lil Yachty’s smile. This boy is so happy he got Joe Budden’s eyeballs vibrating. I want him to do well… but I can’t get onboard with this. It had all the makings of a summer vibe, but it’s two minutes too long and Yachty screwed the pooch by going full robot voice. Budden wants to beat everyone up in the video too. (5)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: The vocal production as well as the photocopied ‘80s sonics (probably presets) remind me greatly of the type of ultra budget pop that plays in a supermarket, the type of thing that makes you wonder who made it and why (everyone reading this should listen to Scott Horton’s ‘Friend Zone’, something I heard in a Poundland and couldn’t believe existed). Which is to say that Yachty’s shot at the pop stratosphere is formless and, actually, insulting to see in this tawdry form. (2)

Chal Ravens: LOL, wow. Who advised this. Who decided that Yachty needs his ‘Hold On We’re Going Home’ moment. Who and how and why. Has anybody seen Ariel Rechtshaid lately? I really hope it’s all Boat’s idea, but it feels like a LinnDrum and a sax solo too far at this early stage in his teen idol career. Thing is, after a few more listens ‘Bring It Back’ is just… so… addictive… DAMN IT YACHTY YOU UNFEASIBLY TALENTED WEIRDO. (7)

Jibril Yassin: Lil Yachty feels very out of depth here – his usual bluster and charm seems steamrolled by a weighty verse melody and a chorus that doesn’t sail quite far enough to redeem the track. The idea of Lil Boat going full Biz Markie to a would-be lover should be a certified smash, so this coming up short hurts. (3)

Haley Potiker: It’s good that ‘Bring It Back’ came out in May because it should be piped directly into proms, limos carrying teens toward a prom, and rented Lexuses that are ferrying teens to after-prom parties. (5)


Miley Cyrus – ‘Malibu’

Carl Anka: This whole “Miley distances herself from hip hop/black people and finds herself” thing is all kinds of gross. The track is weak. The lyrical content is weak. The church cheering near the end is weak. Drop me out. (4)

Tayyab Amin: We’re really talking about Miley Cyrus again? We collectively haven’t learned our lesson from last time round? This video is just more fakery brought to you by justgirlythings.tumblr.com. Don’t believe me? Go ahead and roll around in the grass wearing white knitwear without being coated in worms and mud. Shallow and lifeless, this song sells Fyre Festival dreams and delivers about as well. (4)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Miley genuinely has a great voice for guitars, with a twang that is better suited to this kind of sound than Mike Will beats. But Mike Will makes more fun music. This ain’t bad but you just can’t argue with facts. (6)

Chal Ravens: I’ve been a moderate Miley defender in her vegan, pot-smoking, pet-loving, plastic bracelets-wearing phase – she seems to have been having fun growing up and running her foundation for homeless LGBT youth, which is a pastime that’s hard to argue with. The funny thing about ‘Malibu’ is that the scratchy, waterlogged guitars and solid bass thump make it sound a lot like the country-pop moments on Grimes’ last album and, by extension, Madonna’s Ray of Light. So I’m torn here because the production is real classy, y’all, though Miley’s swangin’ and twangin’ accent is a bit much for someone who lives in a gated community in LA. Hair looks great though. (6)

Jibril Yassin: Welp, the “this is the real me” phase of Miley’s career has begun. To her credit, she makes this feel less of a cloying pivot than it ought to be – its beating twee heart keeps ‘Malibu’ from being the Ambien it could have been and the way she imbues the chorus with such longing gives this the feel of eavesdropping on a personal conversation. (6)

Haley Potiker: It feels pointless and vaguely self-congratulatory to pile on Miley Cyrus, but come on, this is useless schlock. (2)


Mount Kimbie featuring Micachu – ‘Marilyn’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: After the Kimbo’s (feel free to use that, PR people) dud of a return with James Blake, the worry is that Micachu would be the next high profile collaborator to swim in some lush nonsense. This works better than the Blake collaboration however – a genuine song that builds and tries to stay intriguing. (7)

Carl Anka: Two faves coming together to create a lovely slice of weird alternative pop. The video belongs in an art gallery in Whitechapel. The track belongs in your kitchen during witching hour of a house party. (8)

Haley Potiker: The ‘Marilyn’ video is a latticework of home-movie shots, stitched together so quickly and frenetically as to be disorienting. It gives the already uptempo song a sort of intoxicating mix of wistfulness and urgency –
there’s nothing particularly memorable about the vocal, but it’s a mood that sticks with you. (7)

Tayyab Amin: This is such a perfect pairing of acts, so cosy, warm and affirming. Both artists’ works find beauty in British mundanity and there’s a tender intimacy in the way this one slowly rises and settles. It makes me think of a sleeping baby, the bass being the cot’s embrace with keys dangling overhead as the mobile. I’d let my ears wander with Micachu’s meandering vocals all day if I could. (9)

Chal Ravens: Oh, this is decent. Mica’s vocal makes sense over Kimbie’s loose combination of hazed-out mbira, chugging bass and what I think are wafts of melodica. Those African-influenced polyrhythms coasting hither and thither make it all seem so off-the-cuff when it can’t possibly be. You could imagine this appearing on Rough Trade in the ‘80s, maybe – definitely the best track so far from the new Kimbles album. (6)

Jibril Yassin: This feels incredibly warm and inviting – even the horns that break through the melancholic haze of bass and gentle chords feel like how one would be shaken awake. (9)


Danny L Harle – ‘1UL’

Carl Anka: Sounds like one of the final levels on one of those dance mat games that would swallow your pound coins at the arcade. That’s no bad thing of course – the tunes had to be catchy to keep you playing. You’ll be whistling this breakdown for a while. (6)

Chal Ravens: Oh my word he’s done it again. The sniffy attitude towards PC Music (“Oh it’s all just ironic, they don’t even mean it”) seems especially ridiculous when you consider the absolute hit factory that Danny L Harle is running here. Channelling trance, UKG and ‘90s pop into 21st century bangers is not actually as piss-easy as he makes it sound – he’s got a Midas touch for melody and knows exactly when to tip it into a face-clutching “HELL YES!!!” moment. Absolute banger. Sidenote – that hollow, marimba-y synth is absolutely everywhere right now, isn’t it? (9)

Tayyab Amin: Anthemic trop-trance tendencies with a killer hook to catch you. But who’s the diva? If there’s a full video in the works for this, it better centre her and shoehorn in the occasional, awkward shot of Danny L Harle wearing corny sunglasses just as the tune’s influences did in their vids. (7)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: I don’t really know what to say about PC Music at this point beyond: issa song. Maybe some of you get why this is amazing. Issa song. (5)

Jibril Yassin: It’s awesome hearing Danny L Harle, very much into glossy pop maximalism, go full torque in this. This carries less of the PC Music trappings and sounds much like a forgotten ‘90s chart smash with its longing heart-on-its-sleeve powerhouse of a vocal. (8)

Haley Potiker: I know that the next time I hear this will be when I’m watching a Very Serious action movie on a plane and, at some point in the second act, the hero has to wade his way through a Crowded Nightclub to accomplish an Important Goal. (6)


Final scores:

Mount Kimbie featuring Micachu – ‘Marilyn’ (7.6)
Danny L Harle – ‘1UL’ (6.8)
Calvin Harris featuring Future and Khalid – ‘Rollin’ (6.8)
Lil Yachty – ‘Bring It Back’ (4.6)
Miley Cyrus – ‘Malibu’ (4.6)



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