5-1

5. “Drone Bomb Me” – Anohni (mp)

Perhaps it’s a little tone-deaf for a white woman from New York to sing from the perspective of an Afghani girl grieving over the sudden massacre of her family. It doesn’t help that Naomi Campbell sings the song through her tears on the official video. But the production is a melancholy masterpiece, and it’s apparent that Anohni draws from her own pain when telling someone else’s story.

4. “Ultralight Beam” – Kanye West (7), The Dream, Kelly Price, Chance the Rapper (6), Kirk Franklin (2)

It was a clear winter night in Leganés, Spain. My buddy and I stepped into a half-empty movie theater filled with giddy Americans waiting to watch a fashion show being broadcasted from New York City. And after a thirty minute introduction, the lights were dimmed, and we all leaned in (because the sound was too low) and listened to Kanye’s newest creation. We didn’t hear a word he was singing, and as we later found out it was because he was mumbling the entire time, but it didn’t matter, because we had Kanye and all was right with the world.

Now, you might not be a Kanye fan, and that’s okay. There are plenty of reasons not to be. My buddy, in fact, spent the entire train ride back to Madrid telling me how Mr. West had fallen off in his mind, and how his monetized narcissism was distracting a generation from more worthy art. And while that may be true, The Life of Pablo’s opening track ducks the reputation Kanye has built for himself: by bringing the old with the new, the spiritual with the earthly, the electronic with the acoustic, and the braggadocio with the humility, Kanye reasserts himself as an artist, first and foremost.

3. “Awadama Fever” – Babymetal

Babymetal is evil. Babymetal is a novelty. Babymetal is adorable. Babymetal is corporate and insufferable. Babymetal is also really good at making really catchy music. And for once, all of these things can be so (thanks Japan).

2. “Not Allowed” – TV Girl

On “Not Allowed,” TV Girl singer Brad Petering calls himself a “horny poet.” It’s an understatement: he’s a horny poet laureate. He dreams of licking sweat off his ex-lover’s forehead and savoring the sound of falling leather jackets, except that his girl happens to love someone else, and apparently that’s some kind of impediment. “Did he ever make you come?” he asks. “Did he ever make you cry?” he asks again. He suspects that she won’t respond, except he’s kinda hogging the microphone, so it’s probably not her fault. And he doesn’t even bother to sing the chorus, letting an old movie sample chirp “you wanna talk about sex, but we’re not allowed.” Maybe his wisest words: “be careful who you screw…and never call.” Yeah, that’s pretty obvious. If only he could maintain a relationship the way he can craft a pop song.

1. “True Love Waits” – Radiohead (2) (m)

“True Love Waits” could have been the best song of 1995, when it was written and performed, but not recorded. It could also have been the best of 1997 and 2000, when it was recorded and scrapped in two separate sessions. But in order to be the Greatest Band in the Universe, sometimes you’re going to have to sit on a song for twenty-one years. And while lead singer Thom Yorke’s recent split with his wife may not be the optimal reason for finishing a highly-anticipated recording, it certainly emerged as a silver lining on a cloudy English afternoon.

There’s still plenty of weird on this song, like what exactly is the time signature? and what do lollipops and chips have anything to do with this? But unlike the band’s work since 2000s Kid A, “True Love Waits” is probably the most straightforward ballad they’ve ever penned. It’s also their best. And when the best in the world are at their best, it’s required to give respect.

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