Ranking 7 New Singles from June 11, 2013

Ah, the ‘summer single’… not really since it’s not officially summer, but close enough.  Robin Thicke accomplished a huge career feat this week, claiming the top spot of the Bilboard Hot 100 with “Blurred Lines”.  When a new single is released, you always wonder, who’s got next.  I’ve listened to seven new singles released on June 10th/11th and recorded my thoughts.  One separated itself from the rest, one surprised, and one might grow on me.  Regardless, these are my opinions and if you like a single I bashed criticized, we all have differing tastes and opinions.

7) Five For Fighting, “What If” (Wind Up Records)

I’m not a hater – or that much of one, but Five For Fighting seems to do much of the same thing quite often. There’s nothing wrong with that if you’re selling singles/albums or have a devoted fan base, but if you ask me, it wouldn’t hurt for John Ondrasik to shake things up.  “What If” is solid, but it’s also predictable.  Yeah, the acoustic piano and acoustic guitars coupled with percussive drums sounds great, but the record itself is what we expect from FFF.

Status: Take it or leave it.

Verdict: ✰✰✰

6) Mike Posner, “The Way It Used To Be” (RCA)

So this is Posner’s move to the big stage I suppose? Yes, “Cooler Than Me” was a hit, BUT 31 Minutes to Take Off didn’t go too far as an album.  Posner is an acquired vocal taste, which I happen to like. I can’t say I’m blow away with his first single after countless songwriting and collaborative experiences, but I see the potential of this single.  The pop cues are there while the groove is infectious.  Vocally, Posner sounds smooth, but he doesn’t branch out from or deliver any knockout punches.   Anthemic backing “ohs ohs ohs” incite more punch that I would’ve loved to have heard from Posner himself.  Maybe it’ll grow on me.

Status: Potential Grower.

Verdict: ✰✰✰

5) Jack Johnson, “I Got You” (Republic)

If I said I was in love with Jack Johnson as an artist, I would be lying. I hung around for In Between Dreams which sported “Sitting, Waiting, Wishing” as well as a chill jam called “Banana Pancakes”.  But that’s the problem – the dude is so chill and mellow.  Wonder if trees are involved? Anyways, “I Got You” is enjoyable.  The acoustic production suits Jackson’s island sensibilities and while he’s no great, commanding presence vocally, he gives the song just what it needs.  The best part is the vocal production/arrangement, notably on the chorus: “I Got you, I got everything / I got you, I don’t need nothing more than you / I got everything, I got you…”

Status: Acoustic mellow soundness.

Verdict: ✰✰✰½

4) Skillet, “Not Gonna Die” (Atlantic)

Skillet attempt to blend Christian and rock together, straddling two very different audiences.  It works, so hats off to them. “Not Gonna Die” may not be the most profound number I’ve ever experienced, but it has many pros working for it.  It’s is edgy, but sans the profane or objectionable material some of Skillet’s more ‘secular’ brothers may opt for.  There are some delicious sounds, be it the enthusiastic string riffs or elements of dubstep. The chorus is both hooky and epic despite its simplicity: “No, not gonna die tonight / we’re gonna stand and fight forever…”  With gruff frontman John Cooper gritty, as Jason Mraz would sing, “everything is sound”.  Rise drops June 25.

Status: Rocking Christian rock.

Verdict: ✰✰✰½

3) Austin Mahone, “What About Love” (Chase / Republic)

No, I’m not big on teen-pop or teen pop stars… Lord knows I’ve had plenty of words for Justin Bieber (and everyone is justified).  But on his most recent single “What About Love”, Austin Mahone shows more maturity.  And yes, this was the ‘pleasant surprise’ I alluded to.   The teen-pop/schmaltz factor is still there, but Mahone’s vocals have grown bassier and his accompanying production work favors more urban-pop flair.  I wouldn’t call this cut ‘tough’, but it is more macho than “Say You Need A Friend” and sticks with you more than “Heart in My Hand”.  For Mahone to breakthrough, he has to record the ‘right’ record.  “What About Love” is much closer for sure.  Cody Simpson take notes…

Status: He’s got next, beware.

Verdict: ✰✰✰½

2) Sean Paul, “Other Side of Love” (VP / Atlantic)

Seems like it has been forever since Sean Paul truly dented the pop charts don’t it? Well it has.  “Other Side of Love” has plenty going for it.  It follows a formula, but does so well.  After opening tenderly with piano accompaniment and more nuanced vocals than we’re accustomed to from Sean Paul, a dance-reggae vibe establishes itself, quite mindful of modern pop. Piano becomes supplanted by slick synthetic ideas.  It’s not the ‘second coming’ mind you, but it pleased my ears.

Status: Potential comeback.

Verdict: ✰✰✰½

1) Schoolboy Q featuring Kendrick Lamar, “Collard Greens” (Top Dawg / Interscope)

So a rap cut about weed tops my rankings? Yes because it’s a darn good one.  From the opening establishment of a groove by the drums to the gimmicky, infectious hook, “Collard Greens” is quite distinct.  “Oh, oh luxury / chidi-chidi-ching could buy anything, cop that / oh, oh, collard greens / three degrees low, make it hot for me drop that…”, Schoolboy Q raps on the hook. With an ideal rap tone working for him, Schoolboy Q seems to be on autopilot (“Kush be my fragrance, we love marijuana / function on fire, burn the roof of this motherf*cker…” or “Weed steady blowing, pass the blunt to my Mama”).  Kendrick Lamar captivates on the second verse, providing a little bit of everything (Spanish and gun sound effects).  Sure, stoners should be pleased, but so will those who don’t necessarily indulge in ‘collards’.

P.S. This is not about the greens your grandmama cook you!

Status: Rap’s next big thing.

Verdict: ✰✰✰✰½

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