OK, maybe, like, only four of them are better than the fair. I'm not saying which four though.
Better than this year's drive-through version, I mean. Probably.
Billie Eilish – “My Future”
Oh no, another boring self-esteem ballad, I fretted. But the way Eilish frames her “I choose me” moment as a breathy torch song rather than rafter-shaking faux-gospel is typically counter-intuitive yet ideal. And when the track unexpectedly revs into bedroom disco territory, she sounds ready to bond with Mitski over their shared Cardigans love. As her career embarks upon that ever-tricky second act, Eilish sounds increasingly like the rare star who can casually upend expectations without alienating fans. In any case, it’ll be fun to hear her try.
Elizabeth Cook – “Two Chords and a Lie”
In a deft bit of traditionalist wordplay, Harlan Howard’s archetypal-bordering-on-cliche definition of country music (“three chords and the truth”) gets flipped and abbreviated to become in turn its own no-less-apt redefinition. “You wanna tell the same old joke/Just put it in a song,” Cook doesn’t quite joke on her way to extracting some teary-beered pathos from her craft.
Poppy – “Khaos x4”
I’d probably be cool with this pre-fab femme murder-droid just chanting “chaos” enthusiastically over what sounds like bubblegum Ministry for three minutes straight. But we also get harmonizing meathead-metal guitar lines, sweetened melodic interludes, and this Poppy-est of sentiments: “I'm happy that the world is gonna end.” The perfect expression of post-apocalyptic nostalgia for a time when we thought we’d go out with a bang not a whimper.
Flo Milli – “Weak”
Nothing—and I don’t just mean “no music”—has brought me as much pure joy in this cursed year as this bratty Bama rapper’s debut album. If nothing on Ho, why is you here? tops “Beef FloMix,” every track lives up to the promise of that first viral volley of hers. As for Flo’s latest single, it calls out the inadequacy of her suitors over an ironic SWV sample.
Ski Mask the Slump God – “Burn the Hoods”
Despite its incendiary title and spot-on political sentiments (“America sucks,” "Fuck my president Donald Trump"), this is not a protest rap, except insofar as a Black man speaking his mind in America is inherently a protest. It’s an absurdist romp strewn with lines like “I call them underwear 'cause they can't seem to get off my nuts” (dude, try boxers) and references to Big Time Rush, Starsky and Hutch, Scooby Doo, Blue’s Clues, Captain Jack Sparrow and Augustus Gloop, Groot, Inspector Gadget, and Ratatouille. All in under two minutes.
Kem feat. Toni Braxton – “Live Out Your Love”
This week Ms. Toni released her own new and perfectly acceptable single, “Dance,” but she appears to better effect on this easy-flowing duet, as Kem’s unruffable, smoothed-over Marvin Gayeisms play off the breathy tension in her voice that always makes her sound on the verge of a tearful breakdown or a gasping orgasm.
Every week, music editor Keith Harris scours the vast musicscape for six worthy tracks to add to City Pages' ever-expanding 2020 playlist.