9songs

9 Current Songs That Prove Interesting Music Can Top The Charts

9songs

When you turn on the radio and the first thing you hear is “Dear future husband…”, it’s pretty easy to get down on the state of music. The truth is that the commercial world of music is full of injustice. They play a song about “finding a cheerleader” but they don’t play FKA twigs and they’d rather play a song called All About That Bass than anything that actually has bass like say, Run The Jewels.

The fact is any successful business knows their audience and they play these songs because they’re popular or they want to make them popular. It’s a stubborn, unchangeable business but that’s why it’s all the more joyful when something really memorable seeps through. For those who have lost hope with mainstream music here are nine reasons why we should hold our heads up about what’s popular at the moment:

Rihanna, Kanye West and Paul McCartney - FourFiveSeconds

The trajectory of this song has been very interesting to watch. When the song dropped out of the blue earlier this month it was almost to a collective “what the fuck”. Nobody knew if it was Rihanna or Kanye’s song or what on earth Paul McCartney was doing with two of the biggest stars in urban music. After being performed at the Grammys, the song has risen to number one on the ARIA Charts and is on high rotation on commercial radio.

It only took about three different instruments to make FourFiveSeconds and yet it’s easily one of the most captivating songs of the year. Kanye is obviously going through a spout of minimalism at the moment and it’s worked wonders for Rihanna. She sounds the most raspy and powerful she has in years. She’s an artist who’s always looked for new things to do and it’s almost comical that it took her to strip a song to the bone to create one of the highlights of her career. This is a game-changer. You can expect more and more songs to sound like this in the year ahead.

Taylor Swift - Style

Who would’ve thought that such a straight-out pop album would’ve become one of the more divisive of last year (for triple j listeners at least)? The reason 1989 was so divisive is because people outside the mainstream started to show appreciation for what was a brilliantly conceived pop album. The naysayers were left wondering why they were suddenly left alone when every jumped to team Tay Tay.

Style is by far one of the highlights of 1989. It’s a slinky, immaculate pop tune with a throbbing bass-line. The song was written by Taylor Swift with Max Martin who’s made some of the biggest pop tunes of all time (Since U Been Gone, I Kissed A Girl, Shake It Off). What makes it so interesting is it actually sounds like nothing else on the charts right now. The melody is straight out of the how-to-make-a-pop-song book but the instrumental is dim-lit and brooding with the percussion taking cues from the ‘80s.

Florence + The Machine - What Kind Of Man

This may be hovering just past the top ten on iTunes’ around the world but it’s a pretty spectacular feat for a song that’s so angsty and raw. Florence has crossed over into the mainstream many time before but that was with the help of Calvin Harris or a cover, never with a song like this. A lot of its success comes from the fact that people are happy to have Florence back but this is a testing song. Her voice wails amongst growling guitars and thrashing percussion while all the while she taunts “What kind of man loves like this?”

Florence Welch has done a brilliant job over the last five years of bringing interesting, challenging ideas to a wider audience and it seems she’ll be stretching that ever more on her next album How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. The best thing is, as soon as you hear one of her songs it couldn’t be anybody else in the world singing it. That’s a quality that many songs on the charts miss.

Tinashe - 2 On (Feat. Schoolboy Q)

More than a year after its release and Australian audiences are starting to catch onto this tune by US RnB singer Tinashe. It’s already been a hit in the US but radio has just put this on high rotation which is odd for such a bare urban track. You’d have to go as far back as Ashanti to find a song as minimal as this climbing up the charts.

It works because Tinashe’s melodies in the verses are so tight and she struts vocally with gusto. She’s confident and immediately gives us a whiff of her personality on 2 On. It’s obvious she’s young, it’s clear she’s cool and best of all it sounds like she’s a self-made artist. This type of song doesn’t usually seep through on the Australia charts but it could open a door for many more.

Hayden James - Something About You

Commercial radio have shyed away from many Future Classic artists in the past. They only started playing Flume’s Holdin’ On once it was a certified alternative hit and Chet Faker can owe most of his success to triple j’s build-up. It seems, however, that one artist in particular has caught their attention of late. That man is Hayden James who is currently sitting at number 24 on the Radio Airplay Chart with Something About You.

The track which appeared on Future Classic’s Teen Idols compilation and has since become a budding commercial hit. It’s warm synths and deep-house-esque beats have struck a chord with Australian audiences (he may have Chet Faker to thank for warming them up). It’s actually quite rare to find a track like this finding favour on the charts. Even mainstream Australian audiences passed on much of Disclosure’s efforts despite their obvious pop notions.

Mark Ronson - Uptown Funk (Feat. Bruno Mars)

It may be driving most insane now but don’t forget the first time you the blaring horns of Uptown Funk coupled with that infectious beat. Uptown Funk reached sales in excess of one million this week in the UK and in Australia it’s been certified platinum five times but sonically it stands by itself on the charts. Ronson was very clever in pulling Bruno Mars into this song because not only does he do a brilliant job vocally, he also brings a certain likeability for audiences that may not be so familiar with Ronson’s work.

Uptown Funk is the kind of song that demands you listen the first time you hear it. It’s almost obnoxious how in-your-face it is. It does so on its own terms though. It’s not following a mainstream trend, there’s no EDM-flavours, almost none of that typical Max Martin-sheen and no lyrics regarding forbidden love.

Charli XCX - Doing It (Feat. Rita Ora)

Charli XCX is one of the first popstars of this millenium that’s done it completely on her own terms. Nowadays jumping on an Iggy Azalea track is a planned career move but we’ve got to remember that when Charli featured on Fancy Iggy was yet to achieve any mainstream success. Charli then took her newfound fame and released a record inspired by obscure Swedish punk music. It’s an odd route to take but it’s one that have made the charts far more interesting.

Doing It sees Charli team up with Rita Ora for an unlikely pop anthem about “doin it like we’re doin it”. The video sees her dressed as a glamourised cowboy. It’s not pretty, neither of them look like models but it’s cool because it’s sets her apart from any other popstar. Even Beyonce and Lady Gaga’s Telephone (a video similar to Doing It) made them look like sex symbols. This does nothing of the sort but it makes pop videos look like shit loads of fun which is what they should be.

Calvin Harris - Pray To God (Feat. HAIM)

By the time you get to the drop every Calvin Harris song is exactly the same by LA singers HAIM bring something different to a classic Harris song. They build-up the track with a gospel-inspired grunt that makes you actually live for the drop. It sounds like they’re levitating towards the heavens as they sing “I pray to God I just don’t know anymore”. HAIM go EDM was such an unlikely headline but here they make it work purely because their own artistic identity is so strong.

It’s been a while since Calvin Harris has sounded inventive but HAIM’s super tight melodies and unbreakable chemistry means that the song sounds sleek and cool rather than being simply your run-of-the-mill EDM song with a guest vocalist plopped on for good measure. This is HAIM featuring Calvin Harris because they completely own it.

Kendrick Lamar - The Blacker The Berry

So often political and cultural statements that end up on commercial radio are “heal the world” mantras dreamt up by some big-wig in a large record company who’s decided that compassion sells. Kendrick Lamar is a rapper who knows how powerful his voice can be and when he’s at his best no message could be more clear.

The Blacker The Berry features some of the most powerful lines by a major label rapper for a long time and he’s completely committed to selling the cause. “My hair is nappy, my dick is big, my nose is round and wide/You hate me don’t you?”, he raps with a grittiness to his voice. He calls out stereotypes and re-writes people’s thoughts in one of the most powerful moments of his career and yet he does so in a way that is managing to climb up the charts.

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First Impressions: Rihanna, Kanye, Paul McCartney + more

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First Impressions is an interns roundtable review of songs on their first (or second) listen. Each week we review six new songs from the past week, each giving them a score out of five and awarding our pick of the week. Today we pick apart tracks by Rihanna + Kanye + McCartney, Petite Meller, Tobias Jesso Jr + more. 

Rihanna, Kanye, Paul McCartney- FourFiveSeconds

Sam: I honestly have zero idea what Kanye is doing at the moment. All of his sound reinventions (even 808s and Heartbreaks) made sense but this Paul McCartney ballad territory is totally out of the box. Literally everyone has been waiting for a Rihanna comeback and then she delivers this. It’s not made for the clubs, it’s not even made for the car, but that’s the greatness of it. Melodically it’s a sucker-punch and Rihanna has never sounded better but the best thing about it is how conceptually confusing it is. By doing something so simple, Rihanna, Kanye and Paul have, oddly, done something revolutionary. Sometimes you should just keep it simple, stupid. This is brilliant. 4.5 Sam's Pick

Donna: I used to be a massive fan of Kanye West, and knew all the words to the “Graduation” and “College Dropout” albums. But from the release of Yeezus, I have honestly not given a stuff about his music, because I feel as though his whole life since Kim Kardashian is just a ridiculous publicity stunt. (Also, likening yourself to Jesus? Give me a break.)

But I did find myself enjoying this song, far more than I care to admit. It’s refreshing to hear Rihanna’s voice sounding so natural, and a relatively acoustic track released by Kanye? Wahhhhh?

I don’t know what to make of all this. However, I do wonder where Kanye is going with these past 2 releases. I feel as if he is trying to be overly sincere, and after his recent shenanigans, I don’t buy it. Soz Kanye. 2

Caitlin: What happens when you mix two extremely prominent musicians of the noughties with an iconic 60s legend? The answer, fourfiveseconds (of genius). To be honest when the internet began to blow up this track I expected Rhi Rhi to be singing about strip clubs and diamonds with Yeezus demanding world domination but to my surprise both artists were belting out heartfelt lyrics to a breathtaking acoustic track laid down by no other than Sir Paul McCartney. Even though I’m still trying to figure out what the term “wildin” means, this track will definitely be on repeat all day every day. 4.5   Caitlin's Pick

Tobias Jesso Jr- How Could You Babe

Sam: Every time I listen to Tobias Jesso Jr, I have to double-check to remind myself I’m not listening to Lennon. The fact is Jesso Jr is so effortlessly an old soul that it doesn’t sound cliche or forced. You can produce things within an inch of their life and layer like you’re baking a cake but all great songwriters need is a simple tune. How Could You Babe is so simple from its melody to its subject matter, but it’s so beautiful and so heartbreaking a little like Lennon’s Oh Mother. 4

Donna: I listen to a lot of new music on a daily basis, so I am kicking myself wondering how I missed Tobias Jesso Jr. How Could You Babe could be a Beatles song, with its simple chords, mellow vocals, and understated sound. Unlike Kanye, the sincerity in this track is believable, and the simple songwriting, while cliché, is effective. 3.5

Caitlin: Sitting in front of a fire place with a nice glass of red is what comes to mind when I hear Tobias Jesso Jr stroke the piano keys and I wouldn’t want to have it any other way. How Could You Babe may possibly be an anthem for anyone experiencing a break up before Valentines Day but don’t fret, Tobias knows exactly how you feel. With the announcement of his debut album set to drop in March, I can guarantee you will never feel alone again. 4

Petite Meller- Baby Love

Sam: When the first Florence and the Machine record Lungs came out, I wanted to burn copies and take it to everybody at school because it had this energy that made me want to tell everybody about it. Of course, piracy restricted me from doing so but you get the idea. I feel the same about Baby Love. It’s got this flaring energy, delivered by the manic keys jabs vivacious bongos, that make it impossible to sit down. It feels like we’re being taken to church. It feels like we’re being taken to a club. It feels like we’re dancing at an outdoor festival. Its influences are so confused and yet tied together so brilliantly by the burgeoning chorus. Petite Meller’s fashion is spot on too, might I add. 4.5

Donna: There are so many things I don’t like about this song, mostly because I watched the film clip first and it just annoyed me to no end. I don’t like Petite Meller’s vocals. I don’t like her juxtaposition of wealth, clean buildings etc. with dusty African villages. As an African person, the music video offended me for the stereotypes it painted about Africa (villages, huts, dusty, barefoot children, dancing in the street). In saying that, Baby Love has feel-good vibe that makes it very hard not to tap your foot along to, at the very least. 1

Caitlin: Brb, going to go dance in Africa for a little while. There is nothing much to say about this song other than the energy and catchy chorus will brighten anyone’s day no matter the circumstances. 3.5

Denai Moore- Elsewhere

Sam: Moore has a startling voice so packed full of emotion that you always feel she’s a note away from a tear but her solo tracks haven’t exactly made me do handstands. Elsewhere is another track that sees her rely on her beautiful, melancholy voice but really struggles to give me anything apart from that.its definitely nice but I reckon she has more in her than just nice. 3

Donna: YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSS. This track carries a distinctly James Blake vibe, with that unique British take on sparse, emotional electronic music that artists of African descent seem to muster so easily (Kwabs, Vicktor Taiwo, Oyinda). The balance of vocals, emotion, sparse instrumentation, and harmony are perfect. Elsewhere is simple, but pulses with life. This slow burner is exactly what I will be adding to my Soundcloud playlist. Will be waiting in anticipation for Denai’s album release in April! 5 Donna’s Pick

Caitlin: Elsewhere is a song that will definitely take the listener elsewhere. Personally I rarely listen to slow soulful songs but there was something about this track that kept me listening until the very end (and left me wanting more). There is no denying Denai has amazing vocal cords and musical talent beyond her years but understandably this type of music is not for everyone. If you do however give it a chance, there will be no regrets after having a listen to this little gem! 3.5

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/denaimoore/denai-moore-elsewhere[/soundcloud]

Good Love- Alone

Sam: This song is all about that breakdown with the howling guitar. It sounds like it would sound right at home on Prince's Purple Rain soundtrack if the vocals were just a notch higher. It's definitely in the lane of RnB but it has a rock edge which gives it a little more organic grunt. This is begging to be remixed with a four to the floor beat. 4

Donna: 0:00 - 0.37: I’m loving this

0:37 - 0:57: His voice is getting a bit annoying but still a pretty cool song

0:57: All hope is lost. Chorus spoilt the whole song.

I don’t know what is happening here, but somebody got lost along the way. Alone started off as a track I would share with all my friends, but the song is all over the place in terms of style, and the electric guitar laden chorus is just cringeworthy. 2

Caitlin: Alone has me conflicted. One minute I don’t want to listen to it again, the next I am singing it as I prepare a meal. Good Love (formally known under his stage name Patrice) provides smooth R&B influenced vocals over an equally supportive beat to get that head bobbing and those fingers clicking. But do keep in mind; this song is highly infectious so play it in the car with family on a long car ride to ensure they have Good Love permanently stuck in their cranium. 3

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/goodlove/alone-1[/soundcloud]

Trinidad James- T James Express

Sam: I loved 100s mixtape last year because it had this sexy-cross-creepy feel but was oh so smooth and I think I like this one for the same reason. I've been playing a lot of music out loud over the holidays and this one is the one that has raised eyebrows. Some laugh at the chorus, some start to groove a little bit but no one so far has said its awful. If you're going to write a song that has the potential to be creepy, it's a good thing if no one calls it awful straight off. As for me, I reckon it's got the potential to be a runaway hit...all aboard. 4

Donna: Despite trying hard not to, I found myself dancing around to this track… shuffling was involved. I guess I have been moving away from American rap and hip hop culture for a good while now, but I am still so surprised by how insulting the songs lyrics are. In saying that, this song is fun, and seems to have been created with good humour in mind. 3

Caitlin: I’m no train expert but I do believe the T James Express is very different from the Polar Express. However, it is a catchy HipHop/R&B tune that may appear in nightclubs for people to grind to in the future. I wouldn’t under estimate T James just yet after all he has had 2 Chainz, T.I and Young Jeezy feature on a remix of a track from his debut mix tape. So who knows what T James will come up with next? 2

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/derekallendja/trinidad-james-t-jame-expre-prod-by-dja[/soundcloud]

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Lido Has Taken Rihanna, Kanye And Paul's 'FourFiveSeconds' To Church

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Norwegian producer, Lido, surprised us when he played in Sydney last month with his soulful, gospel flavoured live show. He's an immense talent, effortlessly combining organic instrumentals with electronic stylings. He's demonstrating this once again, expertly remixing FourFiveSeconds by Rihanna, Kanye West and Paul McCartney, which surprisingly dropped yesterday. The original is a stripped-back affair, but Lido bolsters up the instrumental with an organic, brass and percussion. It suits the track purposely and has us *praying emoji*. We might even like it more than the original...

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/lidogotsongs/fourfiveseconds[/soundcloud]

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AO Beats flips Rihanna's 'Rude Boy'

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We wrote a few weeks ago about how Moving Castle is one of our favourite collectives right now and today one of the co-founders, AO Beats has proved just why we think so. He's taken badgirl RiRi's ultimate badgirl anthem, Rude Boy, and turned it into a delicious laid-back, number complete with vocal tampering and funky synths. It's been almost two years since we've had a new Rihanna album which is almost unheard of for rapid hit-maker, Rihanna so this is a nice interlude while we wait. Actually if Rihanna's next album sounded exactly like this that would be great. Rihanna meet AO Beats.

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/aokamura/rudeboy[/soundcloud]

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