About five years ago the music industry moved to Friday as the international release day for new albums and singles. iTunes used to update at around 11 P.M. EST, so Friday became Thursday. Now, to avoid the tsunami of new music, high profile artists debut new music even earlier in the week to ensure that they have all the attention on them.
On Wednesday, ZAYN debuted “Sour Diesel” as Zane Lowe’s World Record on Apple Music’s flagship radio station, Beats 1. The single follows his excellent Sia collaboration, “Dusk Till Dawn” (which reviewed here) and his latest solo radio single, “Let Me,” which we named one of the best songs of 2018 so far.
One of his more uptempo offerings in recent times, “Sour Diesel” is a bluesy, and comparatively analog track, anchored by ZAYN’s languid and malleable voice. The song chronicles a killer vixen that appears to be the personification of a strain of marijuana (sour diesel), “walks in the place, hands on her waist/gun on her thigh, big shooter game.” The song moves away from the electronica-based R&B of his debut album and towards a more traditional funk-infused R&B. His warbling vocal runs towards the end of the track are as powerful as the climaxes on “PILLOW TALK” and “Dusk Till Dawn.” Recently, Zayn debuted a cover of Beyoncé’s “Me, Myself and I,” an R&B classic from an era where soul was treated as an equal and not a second-class genre. If “Sour Diesel,” is any indication of the direction for ZAYN’s upcoming second album, he may just be the one to usher a new era of R&B into the mainstream for the younger generation.
On her first single since 2015’s highly underrated Jackie, The Princess has returned with “Level Up.” Hopefully, “Level Up” is just a promotional single because it is incredibly weak. While Ciara sounds giddy and filled with joy throughout the song, the endless repetition is mind-numbing and the production is uninspired and unmemorable. Lyrically, the song doesn’t fare any better, “know you want this yummy, yummy all in your tummy” is definitely up there for the title of “worst lyric of the decade.” On the flip side, the dance-heavy music video, which features excellent choreography by Parri$ Goebel, is definitely the song’s saving grace. Interestingly enough, the song is so bad that it’s good; it’s an excellent song for motivation and feeling good and Ciara’s enthusiasm sells the song better than any promotional campaign could.
CHANCE THE RAPPER
Chance surprise-released four new singles on Thursday: “I Might Need Security,” “Wala Cam (feat. Supa Bwe),” “Work Out,” and “65th & Ingleside.” The songs are also perfectly fine; collectively, they move away from the overt gospel influence of 2016’s Coloring Book but keep the bubby feel in the production and vocal delivery. “I Might Need Security” is based around a hilarious sample of Jamie Foxx crooning the phrase “fuck you.” On the track, Chance is the most political he has ever been; he demands police investigations for several murders, calls out the mayor of Chicago, and reveals his acquisition of The Chicagoist. From the artwork to the lyrics, it’s clear Chance is angry and it’s a fresh new look that he wears well.
“Wala Cam” is a fun, uptempo love letter to Chicago juke music that returns to the lightweight and positive attitude that Chance is known for. On “Work Out,” one of the standouts of the four, Chance ruminates on the intense growth his career and personal life have undergone in recent years. In just a year and a half Chance got engaged, notched his first #1 single, and won three Grammy awards in one night. “Work Out” sees Chance missing his old life, but he makes it clear that he wouldn’t change his current life. The chorus is the strongest part of the song, it’s simultaneously uplifting and inspiring in the specific manner of Chance’s work. The final track, another standout, “65th & Ingleside,” is a love letter to his fiancé, Kirsten Corley, that documents their relationship from it’s inception to the present. The only downside is his slightly grating singing voice, but other than that, it is a really beautiful track.