Favorite New & Old Tracks of the Week

Silk Sonic (left) [photo by John Esparza for Rolling Stone]; The Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show (right) [photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty]

It was a big week for music – the Super Bowl halftime show has become more popular worldwide than the game itself in recent years, and this year’s G-Funk halftime show made plenty of waves. I already shared my thoughts on it, but c’mon, of course I’ve gotta talk about it for my favorite old track of the week.

The best new track of the week was less obvious, with plenty of competition from a crop of strong singles. We’ll cover the runners-up first:

With his new album “Who Cares?” out in less than a month, Rex Orange County dropped another single, “AMAZING”. It sounds closer to “Apricot Princess” than his most recent record “Pony”, along with strings straight out of a Disney ballad.

Dear Silas is back with “Beautifuh”, a self-worth anthem. It’s a refreshing level of positivity to hear, especially in contrast to his last single “Scary/Call Me Back”, as great as it was. There are a few bars in the first verse dissecting the toxicity of the male gaze that I wish he went a bit further with, but what we got was good too.

I’m not on TikTok, but I know an artist that blew up on TikTok when I hear one. Brooksie fits the bill. His new single “Make It Real” is just as derivative of Daft Punk as previous viral hit “Not Into You” and it’s not just the vocoder vocals. As I said last week, I’m a sucker for moody dance music though, and if Daft Punk aren’t going to make Daft Punk music anymore, I guess someone has to.

Jack White released new single “Love is Selfish”, but the B-Side “Fear of the Dawn” is definitely the superior song. Not sure why the title track to his new album is the B-side to a folky ballad, especially when the far more upbeat, raucous guitar show you get with the title track is so much more entertaining.

The first half of half alive’s sophomore record “Give Me Your Shoulders Pt. 1” mostly consists of tracks that have been out for a while like “Hot Tea” & “What’s Wrong”. The new tracks are mostly inferior attempts to make songs that sound just like those singles. “Everything Machine” is the one exception that has a little bit more going on, with a nice bassline and plenty of vocal embellishment around the refrains.

“King of Sweden” was a close runner-up for my favorite track of the week. Future Islands have been quite cryptic about their new album they started recording last year. If it’s more of this – anthemic synth rock with a splash of post-punk rhythm – I can’t wait.

Favorite New Track of the Week: “Love’s Train” by Silk Sonic

Unexpectedly, it’s an all G-Funk Halftime show alumni FN&OTOW.

You may have missed him, with the lowriders bouncing on the field and everything else going on Sunday night, but Anderson .Paak did make an appearance playing the drums towards the end of the set.

He obviously doesn’t have the name recognition or popularity as everyone else who performed, but his Silk Sonic partner Bruno Mars, a previous halftime headliner himself, certainly does.

Silk Sonic’s album “An Evening With Silk Sonic” is still relatively fresh, having just come out at the end of November. It’s undeniably entertaining, but slips a bit too deep into mimicking its obvious influences rather than doing something new & interesting with a classic sound. Anderson & Bruno are both charismatic performers which ends up making up for a lot of lackluster songwriting rather than enhancing something well-written.

Covering Con Funk Shun’s “Love’s Train” Silk Sonic don’t have to worry about writing. Still, their version of the 80’s hit is much more dynamic than anything on their debut. At 5:07 it’s also longer than any song they’ve released previously. Giving things a bit more room to develop goes a long way musically. Anderson’s drumming is tight across all of “An Evening With Silk Sonic”, but it really stands out here paired against the several variations on the refrain. The guitar licks & horn lines underneath the whispery chorus are just as catchy as the hook itself.

Outside of fake Twitter beef, Silk Sonic has done little to no promotion for their music. Maybe we should expect a new record later this year already. Maybe this is the last we’ll ever hear from the R&B super-duo. I hope it’s the first one, and I hope they keep building on this. Cover or not, “Love’s Train” is definitely their most complete song to date.

Favorite Old Track of the Week: “Family Affair” by Mary J. Blige

The G-Funk halftime show was really a family affair (sorry), but I do want to give some shine to Mary J. Blige before getting a little more serious about how huge it is we had a Hip-Hop Super Bowl halftime show.

When I saw the line-up, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure exactly how well she was going to fit in the G-Funk celebration. Yeah, “Family Affair” exists, and that was obviously going to be in the show…but was that it?

I don’t know how I’d erased “No More Drama” from my brain. Maybe it was the fact that when I was tiny my mom & sister played it incessantly, and despite being a great song my brain learned to ignore it like when you live near a train station.

Anyway, Mary killed “No More Drama”, giving a great vocal performance that stood out even more performing alongside a bunch of rappers. It transitioned perfectly into Kendrick’s screen time, the most socially charged artist providing the most socially charged part of the show.

He censored himself, stopping at ‘and we hate…’ and leaving out ‘popo’, but “Alright” stands for what it stands for at this point. And Dre sure as hell didn’t censor himself later.

A lot was made of people clutching their pearls at this show. Republicans calling everyone involved ‘hoodlums’, and asserting Ted Nugent…could’ve done better.

We’ve had black super bowl halftime headliners before, particularly recently. But Beyonce, the Black Eyed Peas, and Bruno Mars are far from spokespeople for the inequality that’s innate to being black.

Whether white people have been listening or not, Dre, Snoop, Mary & Kendrick are those voices and have been for long enough that even the likes of Roger Goodell and the 32-billionaires he works for have accepted them as significant enough performers for the biggest concert in the world. Probably doesn’t hurt that Dre is a billionaire himself.

At the end of the day, the Super Bowl is the most watched thing in America every year, and enough people – enough white people – approved of this for it to be put in front of the entire country. The G-Funk halftime show beyond being great, was a huge statement. There are plenty of people who won’t like it, but Hip-Hop is officially an accepted part of American history, crip bandana sweatsuit and all.

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