Because he has nothing better to do with his time, each week, Micah Peters riffs on the most awe-inspiring, confounding, addictive, or otherwise hilarious moments from the week in music. This week, he’s on vacation, so colleague Justin Sayles is handling duties and kicking things off with new stuff from the yin and yang of ’10s pop music:
Taylor Swift’s finally ending her “Cruel Summer”
The summer of 2016 was the lowest for Taylor’s career: We were just one year removed from her biggest as a pop star, when she placed five singles in the year-end Billboard Hot 100, but a feud with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian had diminished her star and affected her mental health. (In her journals, she called it her “apocalypse.”) Her musical response the next year, the poorly received Reputation, did nothing to move the narrative back in her direction. By the time she began to roll out singles for her new album (Lover, out Friday) the question wasn’t whether she would reclaim her throne but whether she was still made for these times. Well, about that …
“Cruel Summer,” Swift’s most infectious song since that run of singles from 1989 and the second track on Lover, sets the tone for the new album’s warmer, more inviting vibes. And most crucially for Taylor, it tells a more humanizing version of that ill-fated period three years ago. Over a burbling Jack Antonoff production, Taylor sings of falling in love with current boyfriend Joe Alwyn while her public life was in shambles: “Devils roll the dice, angels roll their eyes / What doesn’t kill me makes me want you more.” Cowritten by St. Vincent, “Cruel Summer” is a more effective rebuke of Taylor’s personal drama than any snake emoji or “edgy” turn she’s tried in the recent past. (It also doesn’t hurt that it shares a title with Kanye’s 2012 GOOD Music compilation.) She’s back, and those dark days appear to be over.
Lana Del Rey’s saying “Fuck It” to great results
Speaking of Jack Antonoff productions …
On Monday, LDR tweeted, “I miss doin nothin the most of all,” leading some of her more paranoid fans to wonder whether she may be plotting her retirement. Turns out she was just referencing one of her two excellent new singles out Friday. The song the line was pulled from, “The Greatest,” is possibly her best song in years, and an instant Lana classic: She sings of California dreaming, pining for the past, generational dread, and Kanye and Bowie over an AOR instrumental. It’s perfect. The other song released Friday is called “Fuck It I Love You,” which … I’m shocked she doesn’t already have song called that. We’re one week out from Norman Fucking Rockwell, her new album, and if these songs and the previous singles are any indication, we may be getting her magnum opus.
Young Thug and Gunna having so much fun in the “Surf” video
In which a father and son have a nice time at the beach.
Thugger blessed us last week with his first official album, So Much Fun, a project that more than lived up to its name (surprise postrelease addition of Machine Gun Kelly to highlight “Ecstasy” notwithstanding). Even amid Young Thug’s unbridled enthusiasm, the Pi’erre Bourne–produced “Surf” stands out as one of SMF’s purest joys. The low-budget video for the song, which dropped on Wednesday and was directed by Be El Be, doubles down on those vibes: Thugger and protégé Gunna take to the beach with ATVs, a cadre of bikini-clad women, and Super Soakers. It’s the perfect encapsulation of a man who just made the most serious project of his career by showing he’s at his best when he’s not being serious at all.
Little Brother’s reunion is “Everything”
Nearly a decade had passed since Phonte and Rapper Big Pooh linked up for a full-length project. The Durham, North Carolina, emcees rose to indie prominence in the early 2000s alongside producer 9th Wonder on the strength of their first two albums, The Listening and The Minstrel Show. But along the way, 9th left and Phonte and Pooh began focusing on solo work, and, after 2010’s Leftback, it seemed we’d possibly seen the last of LB. That changed Tuesday with the surprise drop of May the Lord Watch, which Big Pooh called the “album of [their] careers.” The famed producer (and hip-hop professor) is still gone, but beatsmiths like Nottz and Khrysis have given the rappers a backdrop as rich as anything they’ve worked in the past. Nowhere is that more apparent than “Everything,” a masterful piano-chop job by Khrysis that finds Phonte and Pooh in classic Little Brother form: discussing the trials of life in a conversational manner and ultimately finding some inner peace.
Jay Som’s channeling “Semi-Charmed Life” on “Superbike”
This entry is mainly here to highlight my colleague Lindsay Zoladz’s excellent profile on 25-year-old Jay Som, one of the more exciting indie rock voices to emerge in the past few years. In their conversation, the musician says that the intro of “Superbike” is a nod to Third Eye Blind’s 1997 hit “Semi-Charmed Life.” I really like “Superbike,” but now I can’t listen to it without hearing those doo-doo-doos.
Bonus: ScHoolboy Q tells Danny Brown about that country club life
Q is every bit surprised as you are that he’s a golf-playing dad. “I used to look at that shit like some white boy weirdo shit,” he tells an overjoyous Danny Brown on the set of Brown’s overjoyous new Viceland show, Danny’s House. If you have even a passing interest in ScHoolboy’s music, you know that his old feelings about the sport are not the case anymore. In fact, he’s now got a membership at three country clubs. That’s great for his game, but less so for his code: “There’ll be some corny shit. Motherfuckers really be snitching,” he says. “I got a bad habit of hitting the ball out of the sandbunker and not raking. There’ll be a motherfucker that ride right by you—you see him look at you funny.” Q then wraps up the segment by teaching a “young” Nikki Glaser about which strands of weed will make her more popular at school. ScHoolboy may never be fully at home at the country club, but he is when he’s in Danny’s House.