On a week like this, with a crushing onslaught of strong contenders for the coveted Fri 5, your faithful reviewer feels like an “American Idol” judge, with a whole load of self-imposed rules about what constitutes a great single (as opposed to a great song), trying to disregard considerations like how popular an artist is or isn’t, which record label it’s on, etc. Like…
“The new Lil Wayne song ‘Life of Mr. Carter’ is hot but the music is just okay, Wayne’s flow drives the entire song”; “Chris Stapleton’s new song ‘Cold‘ is incredible and his singing is so powerful, but it’s five minutes long”; “Tiesto’s new single ‘The Business’ pumps but I’m not feeling that down-autotuned vocal”; “Amy Allen’s ‘Heaven’ is great but a little introspective for a single”; “Starrah’s ‘Calm,’ produced by James Blake is awesomely atmospheric but it’s 105 seconds long” — and none of these are criticisms, just reasons why those songs are runners-up for this exceptional and diverse list of five finalists.
Travis Scott f/Young Thug and MIA “Franchise” With a slow-grinding beat, savvy features from Young Thug and MIA that span generations and styles, and an eye-popping video (with some slick product placement) directed by the artist himself, “Franchise” checks every box we can think of and shows why Travis Scott is Travis Scott.
Melanie Martinez “The Bakery” SPEAKING OF EYE-POPPING VIDEOS, “The Bakery” is not only the best straight-up pop song of the week by far, its vividly pastel-colored video combines sweetness with a disturbing sexiness, as it moves from scenes with a cute giant bunny and a vaguely Alice in Wonderland theme to a scantily clad Martinez grinding — and then there’s the parts where she’s a cookie that is baked and then eaten while the sexy Martinez looks more and more ghoulish and swallows a sword. Yep!
Jennifer Lopez + Maluma “Pa Ti” At the age of 26, Colombian singer Maluma is certainly the choice diva feature of the past couple of years, as he follows his spot with Madonna on “Medellin” with one from none other than J. Lo. We much prefer the Spanish version of the song to the “Spanglish” one, as the sometimes-corny lyrics are less obvious to our gringo ears — and we can imagine the song is actually song by people with thick Boston accents singing “Party!”
Fana Hues “Icarus” The best thing about doing a weekly singles column is stumbling upon a great song by an artist you didn’t know, which is the case with our two final songs. Fana Hues is a 25-year-old Pasadena, California native who combines pop and soul in a deeply alluring fashion.
Carlie Hanson f/ Iann Dorr “Ego” This 20-year-old Wisconsin native made her debut last year with the song “Only One” — but this menacing grind, featuring a guest spot from rapper Iann Door, is something else completely. “We, as a society, cannot ignore what is happening in our world every. single. Day,” she says of the song. “From police brutality, to corrupt leaders, to the inequality that many people face in their everyday lives. We need to stand up for ourselves and for other people and be loud as f+++ as it seems to be the only thing that works! Sit down, so we can speak up for ourselves, so we can be heard.”