“SUGAR (Remix)” — BROCKHAMPTON
As “SUGAR” reaches its eighth week on the Billboard Hot 100, fans are proud but slightly afraid for the band’s future. “SUGAR” is the boyband’s first song to chart on the Hot 100, making it their first official hit single. On March 4, the team came through with a remix featuring Dua Lipa, another soon-to-be superstar. A remix is something BROCKHAMPTON hasn’t really touched yet, especially when bringing in another artist to assist.
The song is immediately. Of course a group as creative and multifaceted as BROCKHAMPTON wouldn’t leave any aspects of their song the same. The instrumental is tweaked with a different bass, and more keys and leads are added to fill out the mix and smooth out the guitar loop. Along with the addition of Dua Lipa’s verse, almost none of the verses from the original version of the track are there. Core members Merlyn and Dom are not featured on the remix, but the omissions make sense for the pop direction this version takes. This remix is basically just BROCKHAMPTON rubbing in how easily they can do anything, especially be pop stars. Whether the fans or the members want it, the boyband could easily rule pop music.
“Don’t Be Afraid” — Knxwledge
Stones Throw producer Knxwledge continues to tease tracks from his upcoming project “1988”, coming out on March 27. Two tracks titled “Dont Be Afraid” and “[Bc] Tm_s Not Promised” were released on March 4, with “Dont Be Afraid” being the standout. Knxwledge has had production credits on songs with Anderson .Paak, Kendrick Lamar and Action Bronson, but this new album appears to mostly consist of Knxwledge himself and his samples.
The song starts abruptly with many trumpet-like synths and trademark swingy lo-fi drums. A high pitched voice repeats the chant “don’t be afraid of the way you feel” throughout the song with multiple vocal riffs interchanging. The heavy kick and an 808 drum cut through the mix beautifully and add bounce to the drums. As a producer, Knxwledge has an identifiable sound that is very specific, and this song nails it. It’s less drum-focused like some of his other work and it makes you tune in more to the mood created by the odd chords.
“You Better Move” — Lil Uzi Vert
Some of my favorite Lil Uzi Vert tracks come in simplicity. For example, I loved the song “For Real” on his 2017 album “Luv Is Rage 2”. The track isn’t much more than synth sounds, drums, 808s and Uzi. When “Eternal Atake” shook the world by crash landing on March 4, the song “You Better Move” presented itself as the sequel sonically. Built around an iconic sample from the computer game “3D Pinball for Windows,” the song has the same simplicity to its instrumental as “For Real” did.
The work is now put on Lil Uzi to deliver the memorable vocal performance the songs needs to stick the landing as a classic Uzi banger. He throws some of the most fun name drops I’ve heard in a while from 2000’s PBS kids show Zoom to luxury streetwear brand Rhude. He follows up those with a Blue’s Clues mention and a callback to at-the-time iPod competitor Zune. His nearly 20-second long acapella section repeating the title is also so absurdly long that it makes it just as much harder when the beat finally hits. One of Uzi’s best qualities is his way of selling a song by himself. He’s one of the most charismatic artists out, and he can easily control a song with his personality.
“The Difference” — Flume and Toro Y Moi
Glitchy producer Flume and quiet genius Toro Y Moi come together for the first time for a collaborative single titled “The Difference”. The song released on March 11, making it the first new work from these two in 2020. The artists find similar ground in making pop music that falls outside the target of most mainstream hits, and both can get very experimental whenever they want to. It’s a match that makes sense, even though not one that many knew they wanted.
Toro and Flume both end up playing a bit out of their comfort zones for “The Difference”. It doesn’t hit either of their usual styles on the nose and ends up being a hit that has the potential to be a huge breath of fresh air for the Hot 100 and the radio. While Flume has experienced modest chart success with “Never Be Like You” and “Say It,” Toro Y Moi has yet to chart a song on the Billboard Hot 100. “The Difference” could change this considering its one of the most genuinely fun and interesting pop songs of 2020 so far. The drums have a steady sense of urgency to them, but Toro’s youthful vocals relax the record and give a cartoon-like sense of two friends just having fun together making music. The instrumental shows Flume’s diversity that is sometimes unexhibited by his solo work. Whether they want a hit or not, pop music needs “The Difference” right now.
“Magic Hour” — Jhene Aiko
Jhene Aiko returned on March 4 with her third studio album “Chilombo”. The hour-long project consisted of 20 tracks and proved yet again that Aiko is a quiet queen in the hip hop and R’n’B scene. Jhene had been teasing singles from this album since May of 2019 starting with “Triggered (freestyle),” but kept the album quiet until February of 2020.
Yet again, she delivered a lengthy chunk of work that features her and some R’n’B counterparts over beautiful production. I’ve never considered myself a huge fan of Jhene Aiko, but I do respect her work. I feel that her sound is great, but it becomes somewhat one-dimensional. This is hard to avoid when consistently putting out reasonably long albums, but I know that most times there are gems that shine through.
“Magic Hour” is soothing and easy. It’s smooth instrumental is not complicated; it’s based on flat synth and a simple and soft drum beat. A simple keyboard plays melodies along with sparse guitar blended throughout the track. The song emphasizes Jhene’s vocals though, and she shows off her ageless voice with lots of harmony and layering. Her vocal melodies and harmonies are interesting and varied, even though the lyrics and structure of the song are quite simple. She says she’s “ready for the magic hour,” and describes “it ain’t perfect, but everything’s beautiful.” It’s a beautiful song from a beautiful album (and performed by a beautiful woman), and Jhene knows it.