This month’s music recap: Jepsen, Gaga, Sia and more
“Store,” Carly Rae Jepsen, “Emotion Side B”
Jepsen is mainly known for her 2011 hit “Call Me Maybe,” but the Canadian pop star has consistently put out great pop music since. Her latest release, “Emotion: Side B,” is no exception. Amidst this set of well-produced 80s-style pop tracks, “Store” stands out as the song with the most replay value.
“Store” opens with the Jepsen style we love but expect — sweet vocals and carefully chosen electronic sounds. But just when listeners are about to lose patience, the soft background suddenly switches to a throbbing burst of staccato beat. Coupled with Jepsen’s unfailingly catchy hook, the song offers one of this year’s best choruses. Going to a store may not be a familiar excuse to escape your ex-lover, but her genuine delivery makes the whole story brilliantly adorable. Once again, Jepsen and her team prove to be among the finest in the industry. They know how to handle post-relationship reservations without melodrama and how to turn a break-up song into a shopping anthem.
“Perfect Illusion,” Lady Gaga, “Joanne”
Lady Gaga returns to the music scene with “Perfect Illusion,” the lead single from her LP “Joanne,” set to be released in October. For this much-anticipated single, she has a dream team of producers, including Mark Ronson, the producer of “Uptown Funk,” BloodPop, the producer of Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” and Tame Impala’s leadman, Kevin Parker.
Yet “Perfect Illusion” is an unpolished combination of ideas. The song’s first few seconds are intriguing, but as soon as the chorus begins with “It wasn’t love,” listeners are left with repetitive lyrics and without an enjoyable melody. Here, the layers of electric guitar become thin and immaterial, only to be overshadowed by Gaga’s weirdly intense vocals. The result is neither an epic rock-influenced song nor a chart-friendly pop hit. The unexpected change in key does lift the song up, but a key change should never be the most memorable moment in one of her songs. Let’s hope that Gaga will deliver better material on “Joanne.”
“The Greatest,” Sia feat. Kendrick Lamar, “This Is Acting”
Ever since her acclaimed hit “Chandelier,” Sia has developed a habit of repeating the same line five times or more in her choruses. This summer, “Cheap Thrills” reassured us repeatedly that Sia doesn’t need money to have fun. She uses repetitive lyrics in her latest collaboration with Kendrick Lamar on “The Greatest.” The lyrics aim to be anthemic at the expense of depth. As for the music, anyone familiar with Sia need not check the credits to confirm that Greg Kurstin produced the song.
Despite these two drawbacks, “The Greatest” still works as an empowering track. The reason might be Sia’s unique voice which adds texture to the lyrics. Maybe it’s the rap verse from Lamar, whose presence compliments to the uplifting mood. Sia’s talent at penning sustainable melodies should also be taken into account: “The Greatest” may not appeal to you straight away from the first listen, but you’re bound to love it after a few spins on the radio.
“Salt Song,” How to Dress Well, “Care”
“Salt Song” from How to Dress Well’s latest record is a packed six-minute track. Morose cellos slowly open the track before the more fast-paced percussion kicks in, setting the tempo. Meanwhile, an ambient, soothing whistle accompanies Tom Krell’s falsetto. The second verse includes a tropical touch before darker electronic synths rise to the forefront. The song goes back and forth between moods, but these shifts never feel out of place.
Its lyrics effectively deal with the “salty” pursuits of fleeting happiness: “But if happiness were safe, I wonder if I’d sing this song.”
The track fades out a little before taking on its full force in the coda. The rush of instruments culminates in a crescendo of sound, pushing the vocals into the background. Though well-executed, this part seems excessive. The first five minutes alone are definitely sufficient to make “Salt Song” worth appreciating.
Also check out: Angel Olsen’s “My Woman,” with its passionate pop punk “Shut Up Kiss Me,” the sweet and nostalgic “Never Be Mine” and the brutally honest yet dreamy “Intern.” Basically, check out every track from this amazing alternative rock LP.