This week's mix kicks off, as it pretty much had to, with the most irresistible jam of the year. But believe it or not, there's more to life (and pop) than Lil Nas X.
Lil Nas X feat. Billy Ray Cyrus – “Old Town Road (Remix)”
I don’t know that Miley’s pa improves the song, or makes it any more “country,” whatever that means. But his contributions do push it over the two-minute mark, so it feels more like the hit song it clearly is rather than the viral snippet some still try to dismiss it as. And his voice accentuates the lonesome aspect of the chorus, which has an emotional tug that contrasts with the playful parody of the the verses. Oh, and not only doesn’t he rap any worse than Jason Aldean, but he rhymes “sports bra” and “sports car,” which has to count for something. I don’t know why you’d root against the groundswell for this infectious dollop of joy instead of cherishing the populist revolt against the corporate micromanaging of our tastes, but that’s your call. All I know is “Old Town Road” meets the most important definition of a great pop hit: After I hear it, I want to hear it again.
Noname – “Song 32”
"I'm Cardi's engagement ring"? "I'm Obama pushing the button, in Libya, Pakistan"? "I'm patriarchy on Sunday, don't push me, I'm Viacom"? "The pettiest that gets, I'm America at its best"? This casually genius Chicagoan is so good at this I can barely keep up.
Ciara – “Thinkin Bout You”
This being Ciara, she means sexy thoughts. If the intro where she gasps in rhythm with the guitar makes you blush, you’re really not ready for the flirty, slightly frustrated falsetto to come. (And the video might just kill you.) Forget “song of the summer”—this is the song of the spring, in tune with the pins and needles you feel when your desires start thawing and even unrequited arousal makes you feel alive.
Vampire Weekend – “Unbearably White”
Ezra Koenig dropped two more new songs last weekend, and while “This Life,” with its spry little guitar hook chased by a slightly corny horn chug, is the more radio- and playlist-friendly track, “Unbearably White” flaunts his gift for fleshing out a wryly trolling title with lyrics like “Could've been smart, we're just unbearably bright” that offer more than just punchlines. I’m seeing some social media concern that Father of the Bride might underwhelm and I’m not surprised—people have been expressing terribly incorrect knee-jerk opinions about this band for more than a decade now.
Pup – “Free At Last”
Apologies for sleeping on these Canadian pop-punk brats’ advance singles before last Friday’s release of Morbid Stuff. Much as I dig “Kids” (“I've been navigating my way through the mind-numbing reality of a godless existence/Which, at this point in my hollow and vapid life, has erased what little ambition I've got left”—that’s right, a love song), I prefer hearing Stefan Babcock quote a gal who’s got his number: “Just ‘cause you’re sad again/It doesn’t make you special at all.” I think my therapist has said that to me verbatim.
BLACKPINK – “KIll This Love”
With a gladiatorial horn blare that will flatten your senses as surely as any rock guitar bludgeon in recent memory and a sound that takes in Beyoncé and “The Little Drummer Boy,” these conquering K-Pop superstars broke YouTube records you never even knew existed last weekend. If I’m not sure what it all adds up to besides an expression of absolute triumph, I still know when I’ve been beat. They are the champions.
Every week, music editor Keith Harris scours the vast musicscape for six worthy tracks to add to City Pages' ever-expanding 2019 playlist.