Lady Gaga featuring Ariana Grande – Rain on Me

TRACK REVIEW: Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande’s new collaboration is buckets of fun – but could have been more.

TRACK REVIEW: Lady Gaga & Ariana Grande's new collaboration is lots of fun - but could have been more.

All the way back in February (which feels like literal years ago), Lady Gaga released the lead single for her upcoming album Chromatica.  That song, ‘Stupid Love’, received mixed reactions upon its release – reactions that were further complicated by the sudden COVID-19 lockdown resulting in a delay in the release of the rest of the album.  Indeed, Chromatica was originally slated for release back in April, before being pushed back to next Friday, the 29th of May.

'Rain on Me' single cover. Via Interscope Records.
'Chromatica' cover art. Via Interscope Records.

In anticipation of that release, Gaga has dropped a new, second promotional single – ‘Rain on Me’, a collaboration with Ariana Grande.  As soon as the collaboration was announced, many fans started speculating about the stylistic direction of the track.  Gaga’s industrial dance pop style seemed like an odd match for Ariana’s much more R&B-influenced take on pop music.  Interestingly, the song is a significant stylistic departure for both artists, eschewing the previously mentioned styles in favor of a disco-inspired house beat.

'Rain on Me' single cover. Via Interscope Records.

While the song doesn’t reach the heights of what either of these artists have achieved in the past, the song is just so much fucking fun.  There is nothing particularly edgy or interesting going on here, but Gaga and Ariana take this genre and run with it, creating a song that is more upbeat and toe-tappingly bubbly than pretty much anything else released this year.  It is easy to imagine it being a big success in gay bars and pride festivals once we’re allowed to have those things again.

Lady Gaga. Via Chuff Media.

Where the song really falters, though, is with its lyrics.  Thematically, the track has an interesting overall premise of giving in to one’s negative emotions in order to stay alive.  To have an upbeat dance song that deals with a heavy theme like that is a fascinating proposition – and one that would have a unique poignancy in the LGBTQIA+ community, which often finds solace for loneliness, fear and loss in the accepting comfort of gay bars and dance clubs.

Unfortunately, the actual execution of these lyrics leaves a lot to be desired.  Lines like ‘Hands up to the sky / I’ll be your galaxy / I’m about to fly / rain on me / tsunami’ are… unfortunate.  Such deep and emotional ideas deserve a more artful expression than this song gives them.  Certainly, a higher level of commitment to the ideals of the track would have gone a long way in giving the entire thing a sense of importance that it currently lacks.

Still, it would be unfair to just write off ‘Rain on Me’ as a catchy but empty dance pop song.  There is little doubt that these lyrics – slight as they may be – will resonate with many of Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande’s queer fans.  And it’s a rare thing to find catharsis that is this supremely catchy.

‘Rain on Me’ and ‘Stupid Love’ are out now, Chromatica arrives 5/29/2020.

Greyson Chance – Honeysuckle

TRACK REVIEW: Greyson’s newest single hints towards a more ambitious next album – without fully committing on its own.

TRACK REVIEW: Greyson's newest single hints towards a more ambitious next album - without fully committing on its own.

Back in 2010, a video of a twelve-year-old boy performing Lady Gaga’s ‘Paparazzi’ at his school talent show went viral.  Remember that?  He had swoopy Bieber hair and skipped over the ‘eyeliner and’ part of the ‘eyeliner and cigarettes’ line.  Also, he was really, exceptionally good.

That boy was Greyson Chance, who is now twenty-two, very gay, and still singing.  Last year, he quietly dropped his second album (and first in eight years), portraits.  Despite getting some decent press, including being Billboard Pride’s ‘Artist of the Month’ for March 2019 (woohoo?) that album mostly flew under the radar.

Now, he’s dropped his second single of the year, titled ‘Honeysuckle’.  The first was ‘Dancing Next to Me’, a distinctly fine synthpop jam.  ‘Honeysuckle’ is, at the very least, a bit more adventurous than that track.  It kicks off with a single a cappella but effect-laden vocal line.  It takes almost a full minute for the beat to drop.  And when it does, that shit is minimal.  The production here (by Greyson himself, along with kwassa) is extremely stripped back.  That’s not a bad thing, as it allows the song to breathe a little bit.  The emphasis here is on the bouncy melody and the truly wacky vocal effects.

Ironically, though, those vocal effects wind up being the song’s strongest element.  The track as a whole feels a bit like a rehash, albeit a decent rehash, of the same stylistic choices that elevated Troye Sivan’s excellent 2018 album Bloom.  The problem here is that Bloom was released two years ago, making ‘Honeysuckle’ sound just a bit behind the curve.

Honeysuckle cover art. Arista Records.

Of course, not every song has to be groundbreaking to be good.  And this song is good, especially in the final 30 seconds or so, when Greyson’s voice is pitched up to the sky.  It would have been nice to hear a bit more of a build to something fuller and lusher towards the end, but instead the song clips itself at just over two minutes.  In a way, that’s smart, as it leaves the listener wanting more.

This seems like a song that may work better in the context of the upcoming album.  Clearly, Greyson and team are interested in exploring more unique sounds this time around.  Hopefully the album will fully embrace the inventiveness that this track hints at.

Take a listen to ‘Honeysuckle’ below and let us know what you think in the comments!

Postnote: This article has been updated from a previous version which erroneously stated that Greyson Chance was twenty-three as of publication.

Kim Petras – Malibu

TRACK REVIEW: Kim’s latest single is a great summer bop in a year with no summer.

TRACK REVIEW: Kim's latest single is a great summer bop in a year with no summer.

It’s only been three months since the last Kim Petras single dropped (‘Reminds Me’ in February), but wow that just feels so long ago doesn’t it?  These few months later, the world into which ‘Malibu’ is being released very different from the one that ‘Reminds Me’ was.  It is especially hard to think about these tracks outside of the context of current global events considering the stylistic differences between the songs themselves

Malibu Single Cover via kimpetras.com
Reminds Me cover via BunHead

Lyrically, the songs deal with similar themes with Kim struggling to get over a guy she’s hung up on, but while ‘Reminds Me’ was a brooding trap-pop cut, ‘Malibu’ is an effervescent slice of synthy dance-pop.  It’s easy to imagine the thought process going into the construction of this song – bouncy, danceable, lyrically centered around a summer drink… On paper, it’s a perfect single to drop right at the onset of beach party season.  But of course, for most of us, beach parties feel more akin to fairytales than actual events to plan for (and make playlists for) this year.

Despite the unfortunate circumstances surrounding its release, though, ‘Malibu’ is still very good and really, really fun.  The disco-inspired guitar riff runs perfectly alongside the groovy bass and percussion.  And Kim’s voice sounds as good (if not better) here than it ever has before.

Really, this song sounds more like a return to Kim’s pre-clarity sound more than anything else.  The melodies (in the verses especially) are very reminiscent of tracks like ‘Hillside Boys’, which many fans consider to be one of her best works.  It remains to be seen what the rest of 2020 has in store in terms of new Kim Petras music.  If one thing is for certain, though, it’s that now more than ever, the world needs bouncy bops (even if we don’t have any beach party playlists to put them on).

Listen to ‘Malibu’ below, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Postnote:  Unfortunately, as with nearly all of Kim’s music, this song does come with both a songwriting and production credit from the infamous Dr. Luke.  In this case he is using the name MADE IN CHINA – he has taken to using a number of assorted pseudonyms recently – for his production credit.  It is almost a cliché at this point to discuss how unfortunate it is to have Kim’s music constantly be tainted by his presence.

Nasty Cherry – Shoulda Known Better

TRACK REVIEW: The band’s latest is quintessential Nasty Cherry – but also sadly lackluster.

TRACK REVIEW: The band's latest is quintessential Nasty Cherry - but also sadly lackluster.

For a while, Nasty Cherry was one of the most enigmatic names in music.  The moniker first got on most people’s radar via Charli XCX’s social media accounts.  Charli talked about Nasty Cherry a lot.  But the band didn’t have any music out, so the hype was confusing for most fans.

Of course, in hindsight it all makes sense.  Nasty Cherry is an all-girl pop/rock band formed by XCX as a sort of music-industry-plant-experiment / girl-power music startup.  The band’s formation, songwriting process, and personal dramas were all documented in a Netflix Original Series, also created by Charli.  (It was in this show that drummer Debbie Knox-Hewson casually revealed that she is queer.)

The band’s debut EP was released alongside the first – and so far, only – season of that show, (although three of the five tracks had been previously released as singles).

Nasty Cherry - Season 1 EP. Album art courtesy of Atlantic Records Press

What was frustrating about that release wasn’t that it was bad, it wasn’t, but that it was almost really good.  The songs are basically well-written and they’re definitely stylish, sounding like a bouncier Sky Ferreira.  The whole EP basically fell into the same category – the songwriting, instrumentation and production all sounded correct, but not necessarily very exciting or inspired.

Now, Nasty Cherry is back for another round, releasing the single ‘Shoulda Known Better’.  So far, this second era of music is being released sans-TV-show, but who knows if that will last or not, Season 2 could still be coming.  The single still isn’t bad, and it still sounds like Sky Ferreira – but it also still sounds like the work of a band with potential more than that of a band at their peak.

Nasty Cherry - Shoulda Known Better. Single art courtesy of Atlantic Records Press

It kicks off with some grungy guitars, which are overpowered by some poppy vocals and synths within seconds.  The first verse ends with a genuinely great drum fill that hints at a huge, 80’s-style chorus that unfortunately never materializes.

The mile-a-minute chorus that actually comes instead is an unexpected twist, and it probably seemed like a really fun idea on paper.  In actuality, it feels like a letdown on the preceding build.  It’s hard to not want that huge chorus at some point, but the song ends without it ever happening.  (Oddly, this is the exact same problem that their premiere single ‘Win’ suffered from – drawn out, masterful build with little payoff.)

Nasty Cherry. Courtesy of Atlantic Records Press.

None of this means that Nasty Cherry doesn’t still have the potential to be a really incredible band.  Their ideas are good, and their sound is (almost) as stylish as their Instagram feed.  But it seems like fans will have to wait a little bit longer for them to fully deliver on that potential.

Take a listen to ‘Shoulda Known Better’ here, and then let me know your thoughts in the comment section below!  Do you agree with my assessment, or did I get it all wrong? I wanna know!

Keiynan Lonsdale – Gay Street Fighter

TRACK REVIEW: Keiynan’s latest may not be an instant classic, but it is a great summer jam.

TRACK REVIEW: Keiynan's latest may not be an instant classic, but it is a great summer jam.

“Gay Street Fighter” is a lot of things you probably expected it to be.  It’s catchy, it’s about self-empowerment, its gay as fuck.  It’s also a few more surprising things.  Mainly, it’s dirty.  Like… really dirty.  I’m not sure if I wanted to hear “dick goo” rhymed with “hard for you” – but now that I have, I’m not mad at it.

Mostly, this feels like a growing-up moment for Keiynan.  Up until now, his discography consisted of mostly saccharine R&B boplets with titles like ‘Rainbow Dragon’.  Those songs weren’t bad by any means, but ‘Gay Street Fighter’ feels more like the embodiment of those tracks’ potential.

Keiynan Lonsdale. Photo by Clifford Prince King. Via Shore Fire Media.

Keiynan probably won’t ever be ranked among the world’s greatest vocalists, and that’s okay, but what he does have is style and swagger to spare.  The production work on this track by Louis Futon is great too, all bass and brass.  It feels simultaneously bouncy and badass.  And if the opening spoken-word segment is just a bit too reminiscent of the same section of Good Charlotte’s ‘Little Things’, my millennial ass will count that as a positive.

 ‘Gay Street Fighter’ may not be an instant classic, but it is a great summer jam for 2020.  And lord knows we need those right now.

Listen to ‘Gay Street Fighter’ below, and let us know what you think in the comments:

100 gecs & Dorian Electra – Gec 2 ü (Remix)

TRACK REVIEW: 100 gecs and Dorian Electra team up for a catchy rework of a fan favorite.

TRACK REVIEW: 100 gecs and Dorian Electra teamed up for a catchy rework of a fan favorite.

For all but the most invested music listeners, 100 gecs’ 2019 album 1000 gecs served as an introduction to the duo’s wildly unique (and uniquely wild) sound.  The band, a partnership between experimental music titans Dylan Brady and Laura Les, has a sound that is nearly undefinable – veering from genre to genre with a reckless abandon that seems theoretically exhausting.  In actuality, the album was a rousing success, lauded by fans and critics alike.

Then, in October of last year, just a few short months after the release of 1000 gecs, the band announced that their follow-up wouldn’t be another album, but instead a remixed version of their first.  In the time since, the band has dropped a slow trickle of singles from that still-upcoming project, featuring the likes of A.G. Cook, Injury Reserve, Charli XCX, Kero Kero Bonito, Rico Nasty, and now Chicago genderfuck pop icon Dorian Electra.

The one thing that is already apparent about this remix album is that these aren’t going to just be the same songs with a bit of a danced-up beat – these tracks are dismantled, reimagined, and built back up again as something completely new.  Each of the featured artists have brought their own unique perspective to the tracks, and each one feels as authentic to their own aesthetic as it has 100 gecs’.

On this new version of “Gec 2 ü”, Dorian Electra contributes a significant portion of the vocals on the track, but that’s not the only change.  The production here eases off on the noisy distortion of the original, replacing it with a gothy, witchy techno feel that is very remnicent of Dorian’s own Flamboyant album, also released last year.  It is interesting, because 100 gecs’ own Dylan Brady did a significant amount of production work on that album as well.  It’s a lot of fun to hear him play around with bringing elements of that soundscape to his own band’s work.

The final product is insanely fun, if absolutely nonsensical.  There isn’t much of a stylistic through line here, but that is pretty standard for a 100 gecs track.  Overall, it is so much fun to hear Dorian and the gecs crew working together here.  Taken in combination with the other tracks released from the remix project so far, it seems like it’s definitely one to watch out for.  If the remix project follows the lead of the original, there should still be six more remixes to wait for.

In the meantime, you can listen to the Dorian Electra remix of “Gec 2 ü” below, and be sure to tell me what you think in the comments.

Rina Sawayama – Chosen Family

TRACK REVIEW: Rina’s newest isn’t her most musically adventurous, but it’s an important anthem for LGBTQIA+ culture.

TRACK REVIEW: Rina's newest isn't her most musically adventurous - but it's an important anthem for LGBTQIA+ culture.

For many LGBTQIA+ individuals, the idea of ‘chosen family’ is a sensitive one.  For many of us, blood family is a painful subject, as we have faced rejection, discrimination and abuse from unaccepting family members.  Therefore, our chosen families – those individuals with whom we make connections and lives with – are an important part of the makeup of the LGBTQIA+ community as a whole.

'Chosen Family' single cover. Via Dirty Hit.

Rina Sawayama’s new single (titled “Chosen Family”) is a beautiful tribute to the people who make up her own chosen family – and the idea of chosen families itself.  “We don’t need to be related to relate,” she sings on the chorus.  “We don’t need to look the same, we’ve been going through the same thing.”

Musically, this is probably the least interesting of the four singles Rina has released from her upcoming debut album SAWAYAMA.  But that lack of interest doesn’t mean that it’s bad.  Rina’s voice sounds as good here as it ever has, and the production has a charming early-aughts pop ballad feeling.

The song is produced by pcmusic’s Danny L Harle, who showed a knack for creating gorgeous ballads as the executive producer of Caroline Polachek’s Pang album from last year.  “Chosen Family” isn’t as lush as anything from that album, but it’s a strong showing, nonetheless.

Most concerning here is how this song fits in with the other three singles already released from SAWAYAMA.  STFU” is a shockingly aggressive nü-metal banger, “Comme Des Garçons (Like the Boys)” is a house-inspired pop track, and “XS” sort of combines the two, pairing late-90’s pop production with industrial guitars.  It’s all been very edgy stuff up until now, and it will be interesting to see how it all comes together.  After all, there are nine more tracks on the album that we haven’t heard yet.

Regardless of any stylistic qualms Rina’s fans may have with this song, though, there is no doubt that this track will be an emotional one for many LGBTQIA+ folks, and Rina deserves praise for that, at the very least.

Listen to “Chosen Family” below.  Let me know what you think in the comments!

SAWAYAMA is set to release April 17th, 2020

Troye Sivan – Take Yourself Home

TRACK REVIEW: Troye’s new single is better, bigger and more exciting than anything else he’s ever done.

TRACK REVIEW: Troye's new single is better, bigger and more exciting than anything else he's ever done.

With the exception of a couple of collaborations with Charli XCX and Allie X last year, ‘Take Yourself Home’ is the first new music that Troye Sivan has released since 2018.  But what a way to end a multi-year wait.  ‘Take Yourself Home’ is easily the most ambitious song Troye has ever released, spending most of its 4-minute-plus runtime slowly building towards its explosive final act.  That Troye and co. are able to weave a genuinely catchy and anthemic chorus into the mix without losing the sense of tension and build is pretty incredible.  However, the clear star here is the wild production work from Oscar Görres.  Görres has worked with a number of high-profile pop artists including Britney Spears, Hilary Duff, Taylor Swift, and MARINA.  He also produced a couple of tracks for Troye’s 2018 album Bloom.  ‘Take Yourself Home’ is his new best work, though, and the track cements Troye’s upcoming third album as one to definitely be excited for.

Give a listen to ‘Take Yourself Home’ below, and let me know what you think in the comments.