It’s the middle of 2014 – so what better way to celebrate August 18th than to announce the best tracks of the decade… so far?
Anyway, if you’ve got literally hours to spend reading about tracks that, in some cases, are only a few months old – then go right ahead. However, if you don’t, here are some of the highlights:
#200: Father John Misty – “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings”
“Despite J. Tillman’s creative proclivity (both as a one-time member of Fleet Foxes, and as a solo artist) over the past decade, it took a fake name for him to hit it big. “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” is a disarmingly catchy ballad hewn from decades of downcast Laurel Canyon rock and dressed up in the finest imitation-Parsons jacket a Sub Pop advance could buy; it views the world through the conflictory lenses of libido and loss, sobriety and drug binges. At its core, it’s an elegy for a love tainted by the reaper’s touch. “Someone’s gotta help me dig,” Tillman moans to his lady, but is he referring to his deceased relative or someone—or something—further into the void, just beyond his grasp? Heard next to the clattering backbeat, it’s that very barfly philosophizing that makes this Fear Fun cut so lovable.” —Zoe Camp
#177: Mac Demarco – “Passing Out The Pieces”
“The recording process for Mac DeMarco’s second full-length wasn’t wildly different from that of 2, his breakout 2012 LP. For both records, he chain-smoked while writing and self-recording every instrument in a small room. But while 2 had him writing about about being in love—with girls, cigarettes, and otherwise—he sounds beaten down in the lyrics of “Passing Out Pieces”. After returning from a huge year of near-constant touring, he sat on the floor of his tiny Brooklyn room and took a minute to assess the consequences that come from life on the road and, perhaps more notably, having a meme-worthy public persona. “Seems that every time I turn, I’m passing out pieces of me, don’t you know nothing comes free?” As rhetorical questions go, that’s a pretty heavy one.” —Evan Minsker
#156: Disclosure – “Help Me Lose My Mind Feat. London Grammar”
“The requisite ballad of any given radio-ready pop record can be a tenuous affair, and is often more of an exercise in form than an album standout. As the sole slow jam on Settle, brotherly duo Disclosure’s breakout debut album, “Help Me Lose My Mind” is an inherent outlier, but the track cannot be overlooked. This is a confident love song closing out the record’s smokey dancefloor workouts and elastic deep-house, diving head first into the thoughts and emotions that quietly underpin the previous 13 productions. With London Grammar’s Hannah Reid delivering her wistful ruminations with an effortless refinement, “Help Me Lose My Mind” transformed from the seeming afterthought of a jam-packed LP into one of Disclosure’s most enduring and beloved singles.” —Patric Fallon
#137: Erykah Badu – “Window Seat”
“If you are a person who happens to talk openly about your moderate-to-severe flight anxiety, you have undoubtedly been offered countless relaxation tips, many of which involve prescription drugs, almost all of which are as helpful as someone telling you what they think your favorite food should be. Nonetheless, here’s mine: I close my eyes and listen to “Window Seat” on a loop. The connection is partly explicit, of course: The first single from Erykah Badu’s tender 2010 LP, New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh, is literally about getting on a plane and taking your body, but more importantly your mind, someplace else. But there’s also something implicitly soothing about the song, which grooves along a bright, bouncy keyboard melody and a loping baseline. Even sitting in my bedroom, the song instantly transports me onto a picturesque plane ride: the sunlight is filtering through the window; the clouds below look like the biggest, softest bed ever; ?uestlove’s quietly immaculate drumbeat suggests the type of uninterrupted smoothness that allows me to drop my guard. Badu—who sings of needing to leave her lover but of needing even more to be wanted—requires the song’s healing methods, too. But with her resolute composure she nonetheless succeeds, as she always does, in convincing me that I’m not going to die.” —Jordan Sargent
#124: Frank Ocean – “Novacane”
“Anhedonia is notoriously hard to portray without slipping back into hedonism; one misstep and you’re The Wolf of Wall Street pretending it doesn’t dig the idea of doing blow off a woman’s crack. “Novacane” is just as gonzo-debauched—cocaine for breakfast, bed full of women in Eyes Wide Shut configurations—but only feels bleak. The lewd bits go through the Auto-Tuned motions; the rest is pretty harmonies with flat affect, sentences never really completed. It’s a storytelling song but the chronology is hazy, Ocean drifting from in flagrante delicto to half-memories and back; the first time feels the same as the heartbreak feels the same as the rebound. Radio empathized, as did high-profile remixers (from Dawn Richard as lonely predator to a 14-year-old Becky G way too young to get it), and so Ocean’s career began; blame it on the model songwriting he’d continue to codify, or on how many people recognize the place where emptiness feels like seduction.“—Katherine St. Asaph
#106: Kendrick Lamar – “Backseat Freestyle”
“As Kendrick Lamar leans against the side of a classic, pristinely detailed drop-top, his arms folded and face stony as an impossibly voluptuous Sherane (or “Sherane,” rather) twerks perfunctorily beside him, he gives the camera a knowing, unmistakable look: I’ve got nothing but time. The video for “Backseat Freestyle” is great for a number of reasons (Kendrick’s dad’s blunted serenade, the lights of the Eiffel Tower twinkling in anticipation of a marathon world-fuck), but it’s in that moment—as his own impressive second verse plays on in the background and he glares at you through your YouTube player window—do we better understand the quiet confidence that made him one of the most magnetic voices in hip-hop of the past five years.
For all of its physicality, “Backseat Freestyle” acts like a toss-off—the title alone is about as dismissively laid-back as they come, which makes a little more sense the larger context of good kid, m.A.A.d city as a remembrance of K. Dot’s pubescent first attempts at rapping. Anything but subtle, it’s a thinly-veiled excuse for Kendrick to cockily embrace his it-rapper status, all while camouflaged behind a teenager’s hormonal epiphany. Over Hit-Boy’s ominous chimes and snares that pop like plastic champagne corks, Kendrick doesn’t sound anything less than a guy at the top of his game, playing both the teacher and the student in double and triple time. For this brief moment in his career, he didn’t have to cram it down anyone’s throat: “Backstreet Freestyle” is the sound of an artist unencumbered, with nothing but time on his side.” —Zach Kelly
#96: Icona Pop – “I Love It Feat. Charli XCX”
“The only chart-topping song in recent memory to trigger Vanilla Sky associations as it smashes through the speakers, “I Love It” is a giddy, indelible instance of pop-as-generational-itch-scratcher. Assuming that you don’t die after reading this very sentence, you will most likely hear “I Love It” for the rest of your life—at football games, in romantic-comedy movie trailers, and at any celebratory event that has an open bar, be it a wedding, bat mitzvah, or clock-punching free-for-all. Its shout-along, sing-when-we’re-anything attitude is an update of Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping” that actually wants to be loved; alternatively, you could refer to “I Love It” as a millennial update of “We Are the World”, if Icona Pop themselves hadn’t gone on to write a song with a very similar title. Boneheaded jock-rockers Buckcherry recently offered their own take on the song—which almost makes too much sense—but no amount of dick-swinging can come close to matching Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo’s life-affirming, distinctly feminine effervescence, two 48-hour-party-people shouting endlessly and awesomely over a bassline that sounds like a Transformer vomiting rainbows. Live fast, die young, best friends do it well.” —Larry Fitzmaurice
#86: The Weeknd – “The Morning”
“The Morning” is arguably the lightest and prettiest song in Abel Tesfaye’s oeuvre, but it didn’t start out that way. While the lyrics and melody of the original version remain intact, Jeremy Rose’s production—a twisted gnarl that feels like it’s moving both forwards and backwards at once—is downright hellish compared to what ended up on House of Balloons. We can thank producers Doc McKinney and Illangelo for extracting the pop song that was hiding in plain sight, replacing the claustrophobia of the original with a spacious and gorgeous throb that lets Tesfaye’s falsetto float through the track like the substances he and the girls he sings about are smoking. He might have an icebox where his heart used to be, but, over these five minutes, Tesfaye convinces us there might be some hope left for him yet.” —Renato Pagnani
#73: Big Boi – “Shutterbug”
“The further the two halves of OutKast spun apart, the more it became apparent what each one brought to the fold in the first place. When Big Boi finally caved and went solo with 2010’s Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, you could tell he was the funk classicist of the group. Lucious lead single “Shutterbugg” advances the point on an army of talkboxes care of deposed super producer Scott Storch; it succeeded as dance floor catnip thanks to a grippingly tuneful but spacious groove, but its real legacy was convincing a hip-hop audience still sick from OutKast withdrawal that Big Boi could lob a 10 ton funk bomb without any help from the other guy.” —Craig Jenkins
#70: James Blake – “Limit To Your Love”
“It’s funny and a little difficult to remember now, but, for a time, it was awfully hard to get a fix on James Blake. Just about every aspect of his early EPs reinforced his impression as a slippery figure: his drums, splintering and wobbling around an unstable cadence; his keys, woozy circus organs given extra funhouse buckle; his vocals, severed from their natural pitch and loosed like sputtering rubber balloons. You knew he had something to do with the dubstep scene, given his lurching rhythms and his loose affiliations, but it was hard to say exactly where he fit; what dubstepper, after all, would call a song “Klavierwerke“? But then, on his self-titled album, everything snapped into focus (never mind the blurry portrait on the cover), with “Limit to Your Love”—a Feist cover, of all things—providing the boldest outline of all: Dude was a crooner! And a totally compelling one at that, with a clarion alto that leapt easily to falsetto, confident as the declarative piano chords he plunked down beneath. And then, as if to reassure us that he hadn’t completely given up bass music to become an Elton John understudy, there it came: that rumble, ominous as the earth shifting. It was the sound of the horizons of this thing called “dubstep” cracking wide open.” —Philip Sherburne
#62: Joanna Newsom – “Good Intentions Paving Company”
“Joanna Newsom’s ambition has never been a point of contention: From the rhythmic and lyrical intricacy of her debut and the labyrinthine structures of Ys to the two-hour sprawl of 2010’s Have One on Me, her gall has been one of her operating principles. But detractors have argued that Newsom’s gumption sometimes sold her songs short, webbing her melodies and meanings in messes of motion. Perhaps more than any other song in her catalog, though, “Good Intentions Paving Company” satisfies both camps. These seven minutes are an ornate musical slingshot, but Newsom ties the tizzy to a chorus that lands the first time—“the hook upon which everyone hangs,” she confesses—and the poetic recollection of a day where she wrestles with love, faithfulness and fragility. “Good Intentions Paving Company” is the sound of the once-precocious and protective artist dropping her guard and showing her human side, with faults, confessions, hopes, and misgivings to share.” —Grayson Haver Currin
#49: Drake – “Marvin’s Room”
“Drake’s ascendance has been staked on the unlikely proposition that what people need more of in their lives is misery. His fun is rarely good and never clean, and comes packaged with the kind of morning-after regret that lands most people in recovery. Not content to inherit the lesson that mo money may in fact equal mo problems, he had to go and find out himself. It turned out to be the smartest mistake he ever made.
Downcast, luxurious, and resistant to all conventional forms of hope, “Marvins Room” is his apex, his moon landing. If he sounds relaxed, it’s only because being unhappy is just another form of security—the blanket he wears to keep himself insulated from other people. He starts with an apology and moves effortlessly to insult: “I’m just saying you could do better / Tell me, have you heard that lately?”—a line that stands as living, sulking proof that it takes one to know one. Go ahead and hate him—his power move is to remind you that nobody can hate him with the grace and acuity with which he hates himself.” —Mike Powell
#38: Bat For Lashes – “Laura”
“For her third studio album, The Haunted Man, Bat For Lashes’ Natasha Khan decided to get naked—both literally (for the album cover) and figuratively—via a batch of pitch-perfect songs that boasted a kind of emotional intimacy more harrowing than anything else she’d ever recorded. In some ways “Laura”—the album’s undeniable centerpiece—is the least personal thing on the record, but the song’s brilliant paean to an aging party girl is somehow the The Haunted Man’s most resonant moment. A gorgeous bit of sustained melodrama, “Laura” deserves to take its place among the great tear-stained teenage anthems of our time. Much like the “girl of sixteen” in Depeche Mode’s “Blasphemous Rumours” or Siouxsie’s rapidly disintegrating “Christine”, Laura is ostensibly anyone deigned to confront the “horrorshow” of the status quo and dared to be fabulous while doing so. The song is dedicated to nightlife impresario “Little” Nell Cambell, though obsessive Bat For Lashes fans theorize that the song is actually a meditation on “Twin Peaks”‘ doomed (and dead) heroine Laura Palmer. Regardless of who Laura might actually be, it’s a testament to Khan’s growing genius that she can deliver a line as grandly dramatic as “You’re the train that crashed my heart, You’re the glitter in the dark, Ooh Laura, you’re more than a superstar” and not only make it not sound preposterous, but amazingly heart-rending. For those of us who grew up crying off our eyeliner and hoping our own name might one day be “tattooed on every boy’s skin,” the sanguine melancholy of “Laura” is fantastically bittersweet.” —T. Cole Rachel
#16: Todd Terje – “Inspector Norse”
“A few words and concepts that have been used to describe “Inspector Norse”: fireworks, Space Invaders, human kindness, a flute of champagne, riding around in KITT from “Knight Rider”, an upscale intergalactic disco party, vaporized gold, the sound of ketamine for breakfast, a moonlit beach, the mothership landing as well as an alien abduction, an eargasm and/or an orgasm. Or, as one YouTube commenter wished: “I want to sniff this song up my nose.”
No matter the metaphor, Todd Terje’s 2012 earworm is that rare track that can be all things for all dancers, part nu-disco, part Italo, part synth-funk, part house, a little bit techno. “Inspector Norse” has worked its magic poolside and festival-wide. It both served as the climax of his dizzying debut It’s Album Time and was the opening track for It’s the Arps, his ode to a seemingly outdated synthesizer. The ARP 2600 has done everything from power “Blue Monday” to intensify the funk of “Frankenstein”. It’s added cosmic dust to sleazy disco and provided the voice of R2-D2, but Terje’s genius was to make that old keyboard sound wholly resonant in the present moment.
And “Inspector Norse” does exactly that, being vintage yet futuristic, cheesy and transportive all at once. It’s catchy pop of the highest caliber (coming from a guy who made a great dance remix out of “Pop Muzik”): as joyous as “Happy”, as unstoppable as “We Can’t Stop”, as intoxicating as “Drunk in Love”. Despite there being not a word uttered across its ecstasy-enhancing six minutes, “Inspector Norse” –all whiz-banging, constantly peaking, face-tingling, with that transcendent key change at the halfway point of it—is a great pop song.‘ —Andy Beta
#11: Tame Impala – “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”
“On paper, “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” reads like an especially cheeky title coming from a band whose retro-gazing worship of classic-rock icons like the Beatles and Pink Floyd seemingly knows no bounds. But from Kevin Parker’s pained opening titular incantation, it’s immediately clear that the song is less about nostalgia than stagnation. The bruised emotional center of Tame Impala’s immaculate sophomore release, Lonerism, “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” presents psychedelia-as-paralysis, with each cycle through that crestfallen chorus intensifying the queasy, helpless feel of being trapped in a relationship that’s going nowhere. And through that, the scourge of psychedelia in the modern age is revealed: that is, it’s awfully hard to turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream when your life is going down the toilet.” —Stuart Berman
#5: Kendrick Lamar – “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe”
“Have you and your significant other had “the talk” about “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe”? You might find out the hard way that the title isn’t going to be the sticking point. It’s the words right before it: “sometimes I need to be alone.” Now, every healthy relationship requires each partner to carve out some space for self-care, that isn’t too much to ask. And because Kendrick Lamar has something of a messiah complex, he fills the verses with loopy conscious rap moralizing about the radio and materialism and how those can obscure the vision of your third eye into your true soul. Or something like that.
But then the chorus abruptly asks for a more impure kind of purity, one that exists outside the spiritual realm—sometimes, when you get your drinks and your music just right, the resultant vibe is a power so incredible and fleeting, you want to keep it all to yourself. In fact, another person can only ruin it. Are you really going to tell a loved one how much you relate to that? It’s bad enough to get a quick check with all disrespect saying there are times where you’ll be #4 at best behind “my drink,” “my music” and “my vibe.” How about being told that you’re such a distant #4 that any attempt at protest can only be met with a response of “bitch, don’t kill my vibe”?
And Kendrick Lamar is much better with words than you, so what chance do the rest of us have? Well, to me, what’s amazing is how the song that most successfully presents Kendrick Lamar in the way he sees himself—the foremost vessel for the incomparable power of hip-hop—is the one where you really don’t have to pay attention to his rapping. Let’s not forget that the only person who believes in Kendrick Lamar as much as himself is pretty much a billionaire and you could hear Sounwave’s blinding, gilded production here as Dr. Dre outsourcing a tribute to an empire built on expensive headphones. This track is AT&T Stadium, Virgin America, “YOU GET A CAR…AND YOU GET A CAR!”, where we’re all the beneficiaries of an extremely rich person’s idea of altruism, to spare no expense in a show of faith to the customer. And that really gets the point across when you share “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” with your partner—“me time” is this languid, this indulgent and this luxurious. When “sometimes I need to be alone” is expressed that way, those are things anyone can understand.” —Ian Cohen
#4: M83 – “Midnight City”
“In the 1980s, every teensploitation flick from Times Square to Night of the Comet to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off treated the city as some sort of divine space: a coming-of-age backdrop where misfit kids could congregate with others like themselves, discover new desires and freedoms, and ultimately escape suburban drudgery both pre- and post-apocalyptic. That idea drives this towering single from M83’s intensely cinematic and loosely narrative 2011 album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, which seems to locate its truest inspiration in these old flicks and their heart-on-sleeve naivety. (In fact, the covers for both the album and this single allude subtly to that period with what may be a nod to Juan Piquer Simon’s ’83 b-movie Los Nuevos Terrestriales, better known to MSTies as Pod People). “Midnight City” is the soundtrack for an imaginary film about driving through an urban canyon at night: “The city is my church,” Anthony Gonzalez sings. “It wraps me in its sparkling twilight.”
M83’s nostalgia is personal and very particular, but the music makes it sound universal: The rhythm section manages to locate a groove in an XXL pocket, and the synths bark and whir to craft a fanfare that towers like a skyscraper. Upon the album’s release, much was made of Gonzalez’s three-year hiatus, his quote about Hurry Up being “very very very epic,” and even his disclosure of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness as his double-album blueprint. Just two years later, those aspects of the album have largely faded away, leaving the music sounding freshly grandiose. “Midnight City” in particular has lost none of its size and sparkle, especially when that saxophone enters on the outro. At that point it’s clear the song is nowhere near as overwhelming as the teenage emotions Gonzalez is trying to convey.” —Stephen M. Deusner
#3: Kanye West – “Runaway Feat. Pusha T”
“The salvation of Kanye started small as a pinhole spotlight shining on a single piano key. Wearing a blood-red blazer and novelty-sized Horus pendant at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, Kanye clinks the opening note like a silver knife on crystal glass before a toast, steadily, at a resting heart rate of 43 beats per minute. Then the Rick James sample descends. Like only the best Kanye samples, it’s weighted from time, warped and ironic. James’ disembodied voice, once an Icarian, cocaine-fueled yawp of wonder is now the ghost of the ego. It stereo-pans from one channel to the other, circling the track like a wolf. “Look at ya! Look at ya!” It’s a warning that should Kanye not check himself, only a mortal’s death awaits. It’s imperative that he save himself from himself, and he looks to no one but Kanye for salvation. Thus began Kanye’s own self-sustaining resurrection ecosystem.
Every prophet has to have his “Runaway” moment, though—an appeal to the masses. It would become Kanye’s first sermon in a series of many sermons that he would deliver following the release of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy—on radio, on stage, on camera, anywhere. It’s not so much a mea culpa, it’s a pardon. He washes the feet of anyone who’s done some caddish behavior; anyone who’s been addicted to a hoodrat or sent a dick pic or some such. Of course, the toasts to douchebags, assholes, scumbags, and jerkoffs are placeholders for Kanye, Kanye, Kanye, and Kanye. A song about cleansing the ego that becomes so solipsistic is part and parcel what makes “Runaway” such a emblematic, genius pop artifact.
And Kanye knew it, too. He elevated “Runaway” to the most lavish level possible. He commissioned an original Condo artwork for the single, depicting a placid-looking ballerina dressed in a black tutu, just like the ones that danced for Kanye in the high-concept, 34-minute film that accompanied the song. This was, he wanted to be certain, art. In his eyes, if everyone could see “Runaway” inside a gilded frame among classic art signifiers, then, yes, you could believe the final three minutes of the song were the baptism and the martyrdom all in one. Through his vocoder, emoting and bleating and bleeding, you could finally believe he was aware of his faults, a regular man, just like you or me. You would remember this myth when a few years later he returned to earth and proclaimed: “I am a god.” Who doesn’t want a little scumbag in their savior?” —Jeremy D. Larson
#2: Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – “Round and Round”
“Round and Round” is not just the song that catapulted Ariel Pink from shut-in CD-R savant to festival-level phenom (however reluctantly)—its history offers the clearest insight into the method behind his madness. The song’s original source is obscure even by Pink’s outsider standards: It first surfaced as a severely decayed demo—known as “Frontman/Hold On (I’m Calling)”—in 2009, when fans who ordered merchandise from Pink’s site were rewarded with a customized compilation disc of rarities from his bottomless reserve of home recordings. (Like so many of Pink’s early efforts, its precise date of origin is unknown.) In this primitive, almost inaudible form, the song amounts to just its chorus, which bookends a passage of wandering guitar-noodling before abruptly cutting out, like some AM golden-oldies station fading out of reception during a lonely overnight interstate drive.
But the song’s eventual fate belies the popular perception of Pink as the proudly impulsive imperfectionist. Sure, he may have shat out enough songs in the early 2000s to top off a landfill, but for his 2010 4AD debut, Before Today—his first album to be recorded in a proper studio—he savvily salvaged and reshaped some of his most durable scraps, transforming them from half-formed remembrances of great songs into actual great songs. The throwaway hook of “Frontman/Hold On (I’m Calling)” is promoted to the feature attraction of “Round and Round,” but Pink shrewdly keeps it close to its chest like a seasoned card shark, waiting for just the right moment to drop it.
Where his pre-4AD albums took the form of randomized compilations, “Round and Round” unfolds like a strategically choreographed parade of Pink’s various whims, rolling out sardonic Stevie Wonder quotes, icy new-waved funk, ringing rotary telephones, and play-by-play meta-commentary before that titanic chorus appears out of nowhere two minutes in and sends the song skyrocketing to the top of the 1980 Billboard AC chart. Hypnotic and startling in equal measure, “Round and Round” remains the gold-standard exemplar of Pink’s peculiar genius: his best songs bear the instant familiarity of something you swear you’ve heard before, but also the dislocating confusion of never being able to place the source.” —Stuart Berman
#1: Grimes – “Oblivion”
“If “Oblivion” says anything about our collective psyche at the midway point of a decade already defined by seismic, globe-altering revolutions, it’s that the personal will always be political. The song recounts a specific sexual assault (“One of the most shattering experiences of my life,” Grimes, who was born in Vancouver as Claire Boucher, told SPIN in 2012) by describing the psychic fallout: “And never walk about after dark/ It’s my point of view/ Because someone could break your neck/ Coming up behind you always coming and you’d never have a clue,” she lisps in her high, pinched voice. It’s a dazzling, paralyzing performance, in part because Boucher sounds almost playful, and in part because the skronking behind her—the song’s springy, propulsive synth line was one of 2012’s most unforgettable—indicates something other than victimization. “See you on a dark night,” Boucher repeats.
The song’s video, directed by Emily Kai Bock, features a tiny, pink-haired Grimes lip-syncing “Oblivion” at a McGill football game (and later at a motorcross rally), wearing skeleton gloves and clutching a plastic boom box. There aren’t many women hanging in the stands besides Boucher; one, darting up behind her, swats at the hood of Boucher’s sweatshirt, a vaguely combative gesture that somehow seems more goofy than aggressive. On the field, a squad of taut-bellied cheerleaders, their hair pulled back with candy-colored bows, soar forth and land. Grimes, mouthing the lyrics to “Oblivion,” dances the way people dance when no one is looking: a desexualized, mostly arrhythmic twitching that does not seem to be for the benefit of anyone else at all.
The particular kind of masculinity that gets amplified by organized sporting events—the same feral, drooling aggression Bill Buford made infamous in Among the Thugs, his harrowing account of hooliganism among English soccer fans—would be an easy target for a feminist with a video camera, but Grimes is received warmly by the crowd. In that sense, it is a triumph—of perseverance, if not humanity—and it feels consistent with her mission. The subversion of expectation is a part of Grimes’s founding aesthetic, and she frequently marries more defiant genres like noise and punk with propulsive pop production, outfitting her dissent in studio glimmer. The melody can be so sweet as to feel bubblegum, and when Boucher sings a bit like “I will wait forever”–a line that always jumps out–“Oblivion” starts to seem like a very different kind of lament.
But what “Oblivion” ultimately offers is victory. It’s the sound of one woman turning personal devastation into not just a career-making single, but a lasting anthem of transformation.” —Amanda Petrusich