Every week, MTV’s writers and critics assemble and weigh in on new hotness, chart trash, and glimmers of hope in the pop music landscape. This week’s roundtable includes Hazel Cills, Jessica Hopper, Doreen St. Félix, Charles Aaron, Simon Vozick-Levinson, David Turner, Sasha Geffen, and Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib.
Fall Out Boy feat. Missy Elliott, “Ghostbusters (I’m Not Afraid)”
Geffen: At this point, the preciousness around all aspects of the Ghostbusters reboot is guaranteed to be more entertaining than the film itself. Fall Out Boy’s theme sounds nothing like the original theme, because it’s done by Fall Out Boy, and it sounds exactly like Fall Out Boy. I’m failing to see where the outrage comes from here; the only thing I can really get mad about is that they didn’t enlist Fifth Harmony for the job.
Aaron: I mean, the original was such a fun, silly goof, and basically sampled an even sillier, goofier Huey Lewis song (“I Want a New Drug”), and I’m into the goofiness of this; plus, it’s been 32 years so IDGAF! Fall Out Boy have the ability to be parenthetically melodramatic and winking and vaguely goth at the same time, which might be the ideal look for a 2016 Hollywood adventure-comedy franchise that needs to draw in pimply customers from 4 to 40. And honestly, it’s peak Patrick Stump Swag; dude really hurls himself into the soulful “I’m not afraid” wail in a way that screams “PRO TIP.” Yes, I am slightly joshing; it’s frickin’ Ghostbusters! Missy is America’s Favorite Houseguest and deserves every check she gets. And that guitar-drums breakdown toward the end is a mini-laff-riot — whoooo, scary, kids! Big win for everybody unless, of course, the movie tanks, in which case I take back everything I just said.
Hopper: Missy is fully shoehorned in, and in truest Missy fashion, steals the show, even as Stump is, in truest Stump fashion, going full Emo™ Phantom of the Opera. It’s pure ham and has the overinflated dynamics of a stadium-EDM version of a Trans-Siberian Orchestra carol — and yet I love it?
Cills: A confusing remake of a cute, catchy theme song. There was something dweeby about that original theme, in the vein of the Addams Family song or Scooby-Doo, and it packaged the movie in appropriately cartoonish tones. And it doesn’t seem like the new movie is trying to do away with that tone, so why remake the song into something so … serious? Like, this isn’t a David Fincher flick, right?
Willis-Abdurraqib: I was first afraid to listen to this, because I truly love Fall Out Boy AND Missy, and this didn’t seem like a thing that would work out evenly for both of them. And, truly, this is a good look for Fall Out Boy, and a forgettable look for Missy. But I love this song because it’s a callback to the era of Fall Out Boy that I loved best: The era where they were on the verge of their initial hiatus, and Patrick Stump was singing his ass off in an attempt to hold the band together. The older I get, the more my Fall Out Boy fanhood switches from Pete Wentz being the hero to Patrick Stump being the hero. So, really, if I look at this as what it sounds like — a Patrick Stump solo song with a small Missy cameo — I appreciate it.
Flume feat. Kai, “Never Be Like You”
Turner: I don’t want to be too hateful toward a song that, at worst, makes me want to sleep at midday, and, at best, makes me want to sleep at midnight. But this is such a bland EDM song. It’s too milquetoast to be house, techno, or really any particular genre — it’s just forgettable synth chords with placeholder vocals. Sorry to be so harsh, but when someone’s music sounds like a more subdued version of trop house, I have to take issue.
Vozick-Levinson: I had to hear “Never Be Like You” on the radio six or seven times before deciding that I actually really like it. The chorus is just catchy enough to stick, with those little melodic stutters that keep it from total anonymity, like a weirdly cropped Xerox of a Disclosure song from 2013. It works better the more often you hear it. I’ll be happy to have this one bouncing around my head for the foreseeable.
Aaron: I know David’s nappin’ right now, so I don’t want to disturb his much deserved slumber, but how in the name of King Kygo’s family crest does this sound remotely like “tropical house”? Come on, my EDM dude! I totally agree that it’s not festival-elevating, but it definitely bangs on its own crossover-trap terms, sorta like a less antisocial version of Hudson Mohawke. It twinkles, takes a pop-R&B twirl through the meadow, moans with teen torment, all while working a crunchy, rhythmically heady beat that boosts the melody with a lurching yearn instead of overwhelming it (and the admittedly faceless singer). It’s bedroom-headphones EDM at its finest. For summer outdoor events, see the Disclosure remix, which face paints the synths, unleashes the hi-hats, and drops a steady-as-she-rolls bass line.
Hopper: For all the generic tricks our Accidental Antipodal Superstar Flume flings at us, this unsteady beat and “timeless” post-EDM wobble née post-IDM skittering laptop dub gives this song character and color. When the EDM charts and club floors are dominated by interchangeable trop-house hits and formulaics, it makes all the quirk of this cut feel that much sharper.
Cills: Gonna have to disagree with David, like EVERYONE ELSE, and say that I like this song. I also don’t hear trop house here at all, which is why I like it! I love those “stutters” Simon shouted out, the whole song a glitchy, easygoing treat that reminds me more of Caribou or a vanilla FKA twigs song than big, clean, stadium EDM bangers. Is it a little anonymous? For sure. But it’s damn catchy!
Calvin Harris feat. Dizzee Rascal, “Hype”
Aaron: At any point in, say, the past 20 years or so, this Big Beat Banger, with its chorus of scratched-up synth delirium and headbanging gallop, would’ve sent a proper dance floor into an adrenaline frenzy of flailing limbs. And yes, that’s a compliment. Dizzee Rascal’s can’t-catch-me grime-pop flow and hype-man exhortations are pure jet fuel.
Hopper: Every summer, without fail, there is a Calvin Harris track that becomes my jam. Dizzee Rascal is such a welcome, punctuating presence, all exclamation points — he gnaws his way through this song. Harris, for all his palatability, rises to the occasion with a track that is absolutely worthy of Dizzee’s ferocity. If stadium EDM decides to bolster the grime revival, I would not be mad at more of this. Like Andrea True, I want more, more, more.
St. Félix: I like everything about this song except the frenetic chorus, which seems to me more the musical equivalent of the inflatable Wacky Waving Tube Man than Clubbing in Monaco. No matter — even for a man whose entire production ethos is to make originals that sound like remixes, “Hype” deserves more attention than it will inevitably get. Dizzee Rascal is a hyphy joy on it, referencing the well-coiffed global bad boys like Leonardo DiCaprio and Neymar this kind of banger is made for.
Cills: Damn, why is not the song of the summer right now? It was in another Hits And Misses, in regards to the Rihanna collab, that I lamented the current state of Calvin Harris’s watered-down music (the dude needs to reinvent himself). But there’s a much needed boost of energy here thanks to Dizzee Rascal’s flow. They never let a single second of the track go cold. That squelchy synth that sounds like a record scratch, the brief horns, and background ’90s “woo”s make the song play like it’s vaguely trying to throw back to a less digitalized time for dance music, but the whole track ends up as a very 2016, freakier future house cut. Love it.
Troye Sivan feat. Alessia Cara, “Wild”
Aaron: According to Taylor Swift’s Twitter account, “Wild” in its original form was “STUNNING AND AWESOME. (YES CAPS LOCK IS NECESSARY HERE.)” so not sure what’s achieved by adding Alessia Cara to the stunning awesomeness of this Aussie YouTube sensation’s first hit. Simply, the melody’s pillowy come-on remains the draw. To sum up, I quote my wife, a longtime pop aficionado: “It’s not Bieber-catchy, but it’s Drake-catchy.”
St. Félix: Want to feel old? Both Cara and Sivan qualify as the second generation of singers to parlay YouTube fame into IRL music deals (Bieber’s of the originating class). I’d been tired of Alessia Cara’s “Here” — I’m sure she probably is too TBH. Her single about wallflowers has stayed around for the last 8 months, so my interest is piqued to see her overshadow Sivan on his hit here.
Cills: The real Troye hit for me is “Youth,” which is a charmingly self-aware song about being a BB in love. But “Wild,” even with Cara, doesn’t really do it for me. That Max Martin–biting, kid-choir cheerleader-pop vibe feels out-of-date. But this is how these YouTube artists do it, seeding each other through crossover video promotions, and the new “Wild” seems transparently made for fans who’d love to see these two together. If only that meant writing a new song and not just tacking her on to an old one! Demand more from your YouTube faves, kids!
Belly feat. The Weeknd, 2 Chainz, and Yo Gotti, “Might Not (Remix)”
Aaron: Every time I hear the original of this, I feel like The Weeknd’s hook should be on a different song where his fragile, falsetto “might not make it” sentiment actually serves an emotional purpose. Otherwise, it’s just a wildly catchy, completely disconnected platform for Belly’s offhandedly boyish street anecdotes about bitches and hos. But with The Weeknd’s cosign, it hasn’t mattered so far in terms of radio or club prospects for his longtime bro and cowriter. Plus, after Belly and The Weeknd refused to appear on Jimmy Kimmel Live! when Donald Trump was a guest, I’m not gonna nitpick. The remix seriously amps things up, since 2 Chainz and Yo Gotti are gruffly distinctive, crudely witty MCs who are impossible to dismiss. Belly, meanwhile, adjusts his verse to include a “vegan chick” who only eats one type of meat (bet you can guess). For devotees of grossly objectifying punch lines, 2 Chainz does not disappoint: “If you love me, tat my name on your uterus.”
Turner: In 2016, I have to be given a pretty strong reason — Drake or Nicki — to listen to a rap song remix, and though I love seeing old-guard Southern dudes (Yo Gotti and 2 Chainz) still getting them checks, this remix isn’t doing enough to encourage multiple listens. Belly feels like a nonentity, and no matter how much I ride for The Weeknd’s solo work, I’m not too big on him just throwing away perfectly good hooks to rap songs. If The Weeknd gets Drake to hop on it, then maybe I’ll give it another go.
Soccer Mommy, “Grown”
Aaron: This is so plainly beautiful and well-written that it sneaks up on you — just a simply told history of the narrator’s unrequited teen love for a boy who’s a worrisome, vexing loner. As she moves from the back porch of a party to the day after graduation when the kid moves away, New York singer-guitarist Sophie Allison, a.k.a. Soccer Mommy, balances sympathy and judgment, wondering why, why, why as her guitar quietly sparks and jangles. But toward the end, she turns her thoughts inward — no longer asking what’s wrong with him, but examining her own desires and telling herself that she should let go. The melody lets go too, and it’s so bright and forceful that you can’t help but feel optimistic.
Vozick-Levinson: This song has one of my favorite choruses of the year — she sings it right on the line between “grown” and “groan,” getting an entire young adulthood’s worth of mixed feelings into one word. I love the subtle emotional gradient of the verses, too, like Charles. When the narrator asks, “Will we still know each other when we’re both grown?” in the final lines, you know the answer is no. Soccer Mommy’s album is out on Orchid Tapes, the same label that’s given us cult classics like Alex G’s DSU and Foxes in Fiction’s Ontario Gothic in recent years. No wonder it’s great.