News I by I 23.01.18

Singles Club: Drake’s sadboi chat wears thin on ‘God’s Plan’

Each week on the FACT Singles Club, our writers rate and slate the biggest new tracks of the last seven days.

This week, Drake surprise-releases his first new music of the year and funk originators Parliament are back with their first new single in 28 years. Elsewhere, Justin Timberlake doles out the ‘Supplies’, Tinashe teams with Offset for ‘No Drama’ and ‘90s legend Tracy Thorn resurfaces with ‘Queen’. Oh and there’s a new abomination from The Chainsmokers. Let’s see what our reviewers made of the week’s hottest singles, shall we?

Drake – ‘God’s Plan’

Chal Ravens: After a (long) while the self-referential sadboi chat really grates, doesn’t it? Back in the day his heart-on-sleeve indulgence made Drake strangely vulnerable and unique in an otherwise macho landscape; later it became knowing and kinda funny, like, ‘oh, Drake totally gets that he’s that guy, and he’s up for roasting himself for it.’ And suddenly it’s 2018 and you’re still listening to him moan about the “bad things” the haters are wishing on him and how he “only loves his bed and his momma” and so forth. Cool story, bro. Got anything else? Beat’s nice. (4)

April Clare Welsh: To echo Chal – there was a time when Drake’s uber-sensitive schtick was a welcome breath of air in a stale and stagnant room of hard-hearted rappers, but it was parodied to the point of being memeable and then began to get boring as an increasingly bigger crowd of ‘fun’ rappers started to flood the scene. Fast forward a few years and he’s still spewing out schmaltzy one-liners about how he loves his mum over a tinny, cheap-sounding beat. Move over, Drake – stop hogging the limelight. (2)

Miles Bowe: Although More Life was anchored by some nice hits, Drake feels like he’s been drifting since Views. This doesn’t change course dramatically, but it’s not bad either. It’s hard to predict what Drake’s new project (presumably named Scary Hours) will be at this point. Hopefully not yet another overlong mess, but ‘God’s Plan’ is smooth enough sailing. (6)

Claire Lobenfeld: This is a massive snoozer, so can we talk about how the Scary Hours artwork looks a lot like this poster for Rabit’s Communion tour?? (3)


Parliament – ‘I’m Gon Make U Sick O’Me’ feat. Scarface

Chal Ravens:  Absolutely, yes, yes, yes. I want to say this is timeless, as any cut laid down by the original architects of booty-jiggling, lowrider-popping, cosmically spangled funkadelia should be. But at the same time it’s fucking weird, isn’t it? It’s not as though this came out of some bellbottom-shaped cookie cutter – it’s distinctly Parliamental, with that slapping rhythm, those squealing horns, and George Clinton laying down the pervy sex-meds chat like a man who isn’t 76 years old. But then there are those ‘90s R&B chords smoothing the edges, and a verse from Scarface? Weird stuff. It says something terrible about the world that one of the greatest bands of the 20th century has ended a thirty-year hiatus to record a concept album about big pharma and dodgy health insurance companies, but I’m grateful. What a victory lap. (8)

April Clare Welsh: Holy moly this is some high-grade shiiiiit! You’ve got George Clinton doing his anti-Mary Poppins of funk thing, while spooning out supercalifragilisticexpialidocious vocal warbles, and you’ve got Southern Rap royalty adding his verse to the peppy sweat treat like it’s glazed frosting. This is a pure psychedelic retro-funk dalliance, but one that serves as a glorious reminder of Clinton’s era-spanning influence – just listen to those squelchy G-funk, YG-worthy synths work their magic! (9)

Miles Bowe: ‘I’m Gon Make U Sick O’ Me’ reimagines Parliament’s late ‘70s period — where every album is flawlessly blended with absurdist humor, socio-political commentary and psychedelic sci-fi narratives — with the same energy as the latest Star Wars film. Cartoonish villains like Sir Nose are gone, replaced by the far more realistic danger of prescription drugs. Clinton loses none of his energy, humor or truth, playing a pill-pushing doctor with lyrics that bring to mind Prince even without the tragic “U” in the title. He’s spent much of this decade playing the old master to artists like Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar, but here he sounds entirely in his element and out of time. If the Mothership has a time machine on board, you can be sure it’s not running on nostalgia. (9)

Claire Lobenfeld: I do very much love Scarface, but hoooboy, Parliament is not for me. (5)


Justin Timberlake – ‘Supplies’

Claire Lobenfeld: I don’t have much to say about Justin Timberlake’s new music that wasn’t already said when ‘Filthy’ was reviewed and my only ~big feelings~ about all this is that it was kiiiiiind of weird to associate the title Man of the Woods with some kind of embracing of whiteness. The woods aren’t just for white people! No one had heard any music yet, either, and kind of assumed this was gonna be Timberbiel’s Broanne. This is somehow an acceptable practice these day! It’s been about ten years since Maxim came under fire for running a review of The Black Crowes’ Warpaint that the writer hadn’t actually heard. That’s all I’ve been able to think about since everyone had to roll back on their “Timberlake in Trump’s America” tweets. ‘Supplies’ isn’t as fun as ‘Filthy’ and far less coherent, but this is exactly what an elder pop statesman would be doing in 2018, no? (4)

Chal Ravens: It’s important to note that I did not watch the video the first time I heard this – and my response was, okay, not as thrillingly ridiculous as ‘Filthy’, but serviceable stuff, the right kind of pop twist on contemporary hip-hop production that we loved from JT and The Neptunes back in the Justified days, right down to the “brrrr” ad lib shit in the background. And then I noticed that social media did not agree. So I watched the video. And honestly, I’m going to take up space here as the voice of reason and say that The Song Is Fine. The End. The video is about seven unfinished ideas spliced together, I don’t think it understands any of the things it’s gesturing at other than the radical hotness of the female lead, but guess what: made you look. Another million dollars made out to J. Timberlake Esq, please. (6)

April Clare Welsh: At its best this sounds like beige trap-pop filler and at its worst it sounds like the soundtrack to an Owen Wilson film about being single again at 45. There is a line about being a “generous lover,” which nearly made me vom up my porridge, and the way he sings “supplie-ie-ies”… I mean, that literally cut through my soul like an axe through a tree trunk. If this is meant to be some sort of weak parable about surviving in a post-apocalyptic wilderness, then Justin Timberlake is the last person on earth I would want to share a cabin in the woods with. Sorry not sorry. (2)

Miles Bowe: I was willing to follow Justin on the throwback fun of ‘Filthy’, but I think this is where Mr. Man Of The Woods loses me. A Dave Meyers music video deserves a better song than this. (3)


Tinashe – ‘No Drama’ feat. Offset

Claire Lobenfeld: Tinashe’s Nightride mixtape was my favorite release of 2016 and one of the best pop-R&B offerings of the year, although it was almost completely ignored. The LA native deserves to be a superstar – she can dance, she can act, she can self-produce moody mixtapes at home and make huge bangers with the likes of DJ Mustard and Young Thug – and while ‘No Drama’ isn’t Tinashe at her peak, it is a welcome return because holy moly do we need her on the radio alongside her peers SZA and Kehlani (who aren’t really on the radio either, btw, and this also needs to be remedied!). Offset doesn’t sound particularly special here, but no matter. I’m just glad to have another spark of hope for Tinashe. (7)

Chal Ravens: I dislike Tinashe more with every single, TBH, although maybe it’s down to fatigue – she’s either the most-featured artist in Singles Club history, or it just feels that way, which is worse. Even Offset fails to scatter the usual Migos gold dust over this bland-as-hell beat – we’ve been here so many times before. (3)

April Clare Welsh: Tinashe is a multi-talented firecracker but Offset “cannot vibe with queers,” so I cannot vibe with this song. (0)

Miles Bowe: 2018 might finally be Tinashe’s year because she has certainly started out on the right foot with ‘No Drama’. She owns the Stargate-produced track so well that Offset’s verse ends up feeling mostly superfluous. If that’s the biggest complaint I have with this, then her next album will be one to get excited for. (7)


The Chainsmokers – ‘Sick Boy’

Chal Ravens: More fucking Chainsmokers, is it? Someone in the editorial treehouse has confused my flailing, desperate, semaphore-waving arms for dance moves when obvi I was trying to say PLEASE STOP MAKING ME DO THIS. So what’s worse, fucking Chainsmokers in lowest common denominator hashtag irony mode, or fucking Chainsmokers in suddenly-woke hashtag activist mode? It’s actually possible that this is a parody of Black Eyed Peas’ faux-political comeback ‘Street Livin”, but if the fucking ‘Smokers could turn a novelty song about selfies into an actual pop career culminating in a duet with Chris Martin and this, their ‘Earth Song’, then it truly is a story to inspire generations. To wit: “Feed yourself with my life’s work / How many likes is my life worth?” It might be evil genius? (2)

Miles Bowe: As an actual chainsmoker who quit one a week ago, I didn’t think anything could be worse than withdrawal. Then I heard this song. (0)

Claire Lobenfeld: Absolutely the fuck not. I’m not doing this again. (0)

April Clare Welsh: I don’t have anything to say about this song apart from wondering if ‘Sick Boy’ is a reference to Trainspotting. (0)


Tracy Thorn – ‘Queen’

April Clare Welsh: ‘Missing’ was one of the moodiest dance-pop crossover songs of the ‘90s (largely thanks to Todd Terry) but Tracy Thorn’s star shone brightest via the the charmingly heart-on-your-sleeve indie-pop of the criminally underrated Marine Girls. Not that it really matters, but their 1982 debut Beach Party was one of Kurt Cobain’s favorite albums… Anyway, do yourself a favor and listen to Marine Girls before you listen to this song, because ‘Queen’ is by no means bad, but it’s also nowhere near as good as it could have been. Tracy Thorn has one of the saddest-sounding voices I’ve ever heard and this song simply doesn’t do it justice. (4)

Miles Bowe: Tracey Thorn’s new single exceeds the high expectations set by her past work. Her melancholy voice returns sounding both more weary and wise and is made even better by the euphoric track vividly pulsing underneath it. Every year brings new comebacks, this is one worth paying attention to. (8)

Claire Lobenfeld: I don’t know much of Tracey Thorn’s output, other than ‘Missing’, which was Everything But the Girl’s only real hit in the US. Even though I was only eight years old for most of 1994, even I knew that missing someone like the desert misses the rain is not scientifically legit. And thinking about that #actually is how I kept myself interested while listening to this track. (2)


Mabel – ‘Fine Line’ feat. Not3s

Chal Ravens: I was not expecting not to like this too much but it’s winningly nostalgic. The rhythm is loose and light, drawing a line from the current Afro-Swing moment back to the frothiest ‘00s garage-pop, with twinkling bells and fingerpicked guitars bringing back memories of ice pops, mood rings and temporary tattoos. Mabel herself is a bit of a charisma void on this one – the vocals are just about London enough for it to work but the hook is dull in both lyric and melody. Not3s was obviously drafted in by the label to boost the demographic, pairing a street level success story with their long-running effort to Make Mabel Happen. The jury’s out. Now if you had the original Sugababes on the track… (5)

Miles Bowe: Beyond her famous parents, Mabel is a total mystery to me. ‘Fine Line’ makes for a very enjoyable introduction on her own terms and I’ll definitely be coming back for more this year. (7)

Claire Lobenfeld: There’s a reason we named Mabel an artist to watch in 2016. This is super fun, has a nice late ‘00s feel and a great hook. (7)

April Clare Welsh: The patter of bells running through this track sound like cast-offs from an iPhone X commercial but there is something about the pacing and design of the song that recalls late ‘00s memories of combat trousers and hair mascara, which of course I am here for. More importantly, however, is what Claire says – this is A Fun Song. Look, the world is fucked and we need pop stars to fire up the revolution with a battle-cry or two, but we also need sweetly nostalgic garage-pop to help us forget – ‘Fine Line’ is the perfect indulgence. (7)


Final scores:

Final scores:
Parliament – ‘I’m Gon Make U Sick O’Me’ feat. Scarface (7.5)
Mabel – ‘Fine Line’ feat. Not3 (6.5)
Tracy Thorn – ‘Queen’ (4.7)
Tinashe – ‘No Drama’ feat. Offset (4.25)
Drake – ‘God’s Plan’ (3.75)
Justin Timberlake – ‘Supplies’ (3.75)
The Chainsmokers – ‘Sick Boy’ (0.5)



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