Weekly Roundup of ListenOnRepeat New Reviews for Nov. 02 – Nov. 08, 2020

LOR Music Reviews

Lil Nas X has announced a new single “Holiday” starring Micheal J. Fox. His 2019 hit “Old Town Road” is still one of my favorite songs and we can hope to get similar hype from his upcoming songs.

Meanwhile, check out the latest music reviews on ListenOnRepeat from last week!

Eric Church – Through My Ray-Bans (Lyrics)

Eric Church - Through my ray bansThe anti-hero of country music is back with a bang. Eric Church has been splitting audiences with his maverick approach to perhaps the best-loved genre in America. His releases always skirt around plain declarations of faith and of displaying country tropes without a healthy dose of irony and irreverence. “Stick That In Your Country Song” even went as far as deriding the country scene for its faker aspects. This lost him fans but it won him a whole lot more, and his releases since have toed a similar line. “Through My Ray-Bans” is no different: it is ambiguous, full of daring imagery, and deals with its subject matter with a wink as well as a trademark snarl.

This is a track that describes two different worlds – possibly the one we live in and the one above. In the first, Church talks about the gambling, the loaded decks, the drinking, the characters, and the revelry in all-night bars where the whiskey is downed by men seeming like soldiers on the eve of battle. The other world (the one above?) is different altogether. “No hand in the deck beats a pair of cards,” and Church wishes he could always see the world as he does in this second place.

Through his “Ray-Bans” could a clever take on the idea of beer goggles, or it could be something more spiritual. Indeed, as the song progresses it feels more and more like two different bars Church is describing, or at least, two different states of drunkenness; one bad, one good. He is an unreliable narrator in this sense, and one line provides this clue later in the song when he says: “Yes, it’s true as the blue in the grass or the green in the sky.”

 

Jonas Brothers – I Need You Christmas (Lyrics)

Jonas Brothers - I need youIt is barely November and the first new Christmas songs are starting to flood in. It feels like an unwritten rule that these tracks could not have been released before Halloween, but once the spooky season is finished, the pop world replaces scary make-up with a Santa hat pretty quickly. In this case, the top of the downloads charts for new Christmas songs is occupied by the Jonas Brothers, who must have figured out that it is a particularly lucrative time for them, as they appeal to both kids as well as their legions of young-adult fans. Last year it was “Like It’s Christmas”  and this year it is “I Need Your Christmas.”

“I’m gonna say it again: When the Jonas Brothers say it’s Christmas time, it’s Christmas time” … reads one top comment on the audio clip for this new track. But rather than a pop opening, we get ornate strings and clinky classical piano. This song sounds like Christmas, in the traditional sense, and it’s lyrics even mirror some classic Christmas lyrics. For example, “If you’re young, if you’re old/ We all wait to be told/ Just a simple phrase/ “Have a Merry Christmas” sounds very similar to Nat King Cole’s “And so I’m offering this simple phrase/ To kids from one to ninety-two/ Although its been said many times, Many ways: “Merry Christmas to you.” 
In truth, this is a Christmas song jam-packed with cliché and holiday references. Yet, there are a few nods to the difficult moment we are in as we come up to Xmas 2020. The idea of needing Christmas chimes with a need for some respite. The lyrics talk about feeling lonely, being isolated, and wanting things to return to normal, just in time for family and festivities.

Dua Lipa & Angèle – Fever (Official Audio)

Dua Lipa & Angele - FeverDua Lipa and Angèle is a collaboration that fans didn’t know they needed until it happened. The former is an English superstar who has converted the pop world to her brand of minimalist, beat-driven pop. The latter is a Belgian singer, a star in her own right within the francophone world and beyond, who charms audiences with her blend of fragility and power, and her lilting, synth-driven tracks. Both are young and at the forefront of their respective sounds, with one foot in the urban scene and another in stretching right out into the mainstream commercial space. This is a collaboration for 2020 pop music.

The first thing that strikes us upon listening to “Fever” is the staggered beat, composed of a string-plucked melody and plastic-y drums. Synth-bass prods come in after a few moments and we surely recognize where we are – right in the space both artists occupy, between straight pop and expressive, interesting production. Both French and English feature in the lyrics, which talk about the fever that comes with love, about how it can be debilitating and cause flushes in an instant. Here, there is a peculiar parallel with current affairs, whether intended or not and when Dua Lipa describes the checking of a temperature on a forehead, it is hard not to think of the current predicament the world is facing.

Yet, fans are more concerned with what the collaboration offers. In comments sections, both francophone and anglophone listeners express their interest, with many newly-converted fans being made in the process: “I don’t really follow Angèle because it’s not really my style of music, but this is BOMB. Love that Angèle didn’t just sing in English (and notice that Dua does the lower harmonies in French while Angèle sings). Props… well-done les filles.”

Alicia Keys, Brandi Carlile – A Beautiful Noise (Lyrics)

Alicia Keys, Brandi Carlie - A Beautiful NoiseTwo pianos, one black and one white, combine for the cover image of this single and they look like a Yin and Yang symbol. In this track, Key’s voice is the one that kicks off proceedings, and it has to be said that she sounds better than ever. Brandi Carlile comes in to harmonize before too long, and rather than combining for more power, the harmony is delicate and works to add depth rather than volume. All of this converges over a simple piano melody, in which it is the voice that sustains rhythm and the keys that add color and mood.

There has always been a political streak to Keys’ public persona and she has recently been on the campaign trail with Kamala Harris. And this song is no different. The song starts off with lyrics that speak of the transition from girlhood to womanhood, from innocent kid to protester: “I have a voice/ Started out a whisper, turned into a scream/ Made a beautiful noise/ Shoulder to shoulder, marching in the street.” We later go into territory that describes domestic violence, and the silencing of victims. Keys has her voice, though, and though some women might not feel confident using theirs, she will continue to use hers, as well as her platform, to tell her truth.

It seems fans are convinced by the message, with one top comment saying: “two of the most talented, kindest, and genuine artists out there. Incredible and powerful song and message.” This positive response will only grow, as the melody gets entrenched after a few listens and the vocals only seem more powerful. It is a testament to Keys’ impact that the song has also been doing the rounds on Twitter, with many other musicians retweeting links to the track and praising its power and urgency.

Andra, Dony & Matteo – Barcelona (Official Video)

Andra, Dony and Matteo - BarcelonaEven though she sings in English about a Spanish city, Andra is a Romanian singer and judges on the talent show Romania’s Got Talent. Here she is joined by her two cohorts, Dony and Matteo, who add flavor and texture through different tones and styles. Together, they deliver a love letter to Barcelona, a city, it seems, where everything is possible. Love, partying, heat – it’s all there for the taking as long as you’ve got the gumption to get on a plane and let yourself get swept away.

The video starts at the airport, and we see Andra stride through looking ready to go. Later, we get shots of the three performings in front of a plane, a sign saying Barcelona, and various luggage areas. It is a video with a sharp color palette and plenty of pop, as identified by one viewer: “Everyone talks about something else, but look how-to video clip wonderful is.” The only thing that might strike viewers as strange is that the three artists never actually make it to their destination … maybe it is a result of the lockdown we are facing all over the world. Instead, they make do with green screens and 2D sets. It works, but only to an extent.

In any case, the message of the song is clear at all times, and that is down to the simplicity of the lyrics: “I just wanna get away one night in Barcelona/ There we can do anything/ The things we really wanna/ Under the sky, sangria wine/ You’re body on mine.” With view counts already exceeding subscriber numbers, it is clear that “Barcelona” is a great addition to Andra’s discography, expanding her fanbase and reaching an international audience.
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