“Run” – Joji
Joji’s second studio album appears to be upon us, an era already branded with the R&B mastery of “Sanctuary”. The wallowing “Run” is next up, holding tightly onto his characteristic melancholy disposition he laments over lost love with song after song. Typical Joji, but always with a new twist on his sad boy alt-R&B sound that makes it seem brand new.
“Run” is trembling and serene, bursting into a cathartic climax of an electric guitar solo at the end. This and the soulful strums layered throughout are a familiar staple in a rock song, but generally out of Joji’s jurisdiction. “Run” is yet another effort at experimentation that he’s managed to make work, interweaving his sorrowful style with something we’ve heard before for some mainstream modernity. Although there’s a maturity that wasn’t heard from the scrappy sound of Ballads 1, I still hope to see him branch out a little further. Four stars.
“Physical” – Dua Lipa
Dua Lipa’s sophomore effort, Future Nostalgia, is around the corner. ‘80s-inspired “Physical” is the newest single off of it; it’s perky, rich and probably worthy of a Jazzercise routine. The high-energy song is a smash that spoke to my sixth grade adoration for The Veronicas, with Lipa’s self-assured vocals elevating the already-danceable track. It’s radio-ready, but unfortunately so; the song is upbeat and enjoyable, but generic, left without Lipa’s fingerprints on it. It’ll make a fine place in your little sister’s cheer routine and your mom’s Zumba class, but not a list of pop hits that made the year. Peppy and fun as it is, we’ve heard this song a million times over. Two stars.
“Yikes” – Nicki Minaj
I honestly can’t remember the last time Nicki put out a hit. Recently, she’s been under fire amongst her own fans for claiming her hatred of many of these hits — her regrets are “Anaconda”, “Your Love” and, the worst offender, “Starships”. To be quite honest, this is a sentiment I agree with. Even if her poppy hits are fun for a mid-2000s throwback playlist, they don’t hold up. So, when she announced the release of “Yikes”, it felt like a well-earned rebirth was upon us — like she can make the music she truly wants to.
“Yikes” doesn’t quite have Minaj’s usual strength. It’s a small buzz single, luckily, so I’m hoping it’s only a marker of what’s to come. It’s back to pure rap for her, a decision that “Yikes” proves is for the best, but a letdown in the fact that we know Minaj is capable of so much more. Fun, but predictable — more skippable than repeat-worthy. Three stars.
“Intentions” – Justin Bieber ft. Quavo
My first instinct is to say that “Intentions” is, at least, a step-up from “Yummy”, but then I realized that’s not much of a compliment. Then again, “Intentions” doesn’t really deserve any compliments.
“Intentions” is straight-up a regression to “One Less Lonely Girl” and “One Time”, but without the catchiness and enjoyability. It’s really not fun to listen to a grown man pretend he’s still in his baby-faced prime when he actually just looks dead behind the eyes at this point. I assume the synths were meant to be light and playful, but they come across as silly and generic as the lyrics do — “shoutout to your mom and dad for making you” and “picture perfect, you don’t need no filter”. There was about as much effort put into writing this song as there would be in writing an opening Tinder message. Bieber’s a big boy now, so he at least throws in some big boy words: “heart full of equity, you’re an asset” he goes on to sing — this song has five writers on it, so I’m not sure which one read a book for the first time and plucked those out of it.
I have to wonder if this children’s Xylophone song — which, now that I think of it, is a concept that could be used quite interestingly by the right artist, but it’d have to be one who actually cares about the music they put out — is something Bieber even wanted to make willingly. Between this and “Yummy”, it just seems like his wife has a gun to his head in the studio. For all we know, the stupid synths might be Morse code for “help me”. One star.