Jhené Aiko's Summer Anthem Makes Room for Joy


Mad for it: Jhené Aiko, “Summer 2020” – Jhené Aiko’s music has long conjured the humidity of a summer day, with her intensely relaxed voice floating on synths like pool inflatables. The endeavor to make a low-key summer anthem, then is something of a no-brainer, and “Summer 2020” comes as one of nine new tracks on the newly released deluxe edition of her already stuffed Chilombo album from earlier this year. “Summer 2020” is based on a straightforward sample of Kool & the Gang’s iconic 1974 instrumental “Summer Madness” (the spine of DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s “Summertime”) and finds Aiko in the eye of a cultural storm. While acknowledging the pain and anger that have largely defined this moment, Aiko nonetheless finds joy: “I feel like sometimes I cry/’Cause I feel so good to be alive.” No matter how fucked up the earth is, it has a way of reminding you of its goodness or at least its potential for it. Summer, Aiko is pointing out, is one of those ways. —Rich Juzwiak

Kinda, ya: Ellie Goulding feat. Lauv, “Slow Grenade” – When it comes to the kind of mid-tempo pop crooning that dominates Top 40 radio, Ellie Goulding was an early adopter. And yet, as time goes on, she’s only managed to streamline her idiosyncratic soprano and shimmery H&M dressing room sound. “Slow Grenade” is more of the same, but that’s by no means a failure. It’s charmingly introspective and insecure, a familiar portrayal of a relationship on the rocks. I like it fine. —Maria Sherman

Y: No Joy, “Four” – Have you’ve always wished your favorite ’90s shoegaze revivalists introduced some ’90s hip-hop into their song construction? Look no further than Canadian band No Joy’s excellent “Four,” another track from their forthcoming album, Motherhood. The video, too, is worth mentioning: in it, the band uses clips from makeup artist Ashley Diabo, an indigenous woman, and asks listeners to donate to Canadian Roots Exchange, Native Women’s Association Of Canada, True North Aid, and Unist’ot’en Camp, according to Stereogum. That’s something I can get behind. —MS

Extremely my shit: Initiates, “You Haunt Me” – Years ago, a post-punk band from Stockholm, Sweden called Holograms became a particular obsession of mine. They seemed to disappear—as all the great ones do—before the world celebrated their industrialized charm, and I awaited their return. I’m still waiting, but Initiates is something of a continued story: Holograms vocalist/bassist Andreas Lagerström is now responsible for this alt-rock, post-punk project. It’s certainly scuzzier than the previous band, and gone are the vintage Moog synths—but Lagerström’s voice is as bone-piercing as ever, and I’m so thrilled to become reacquainted with it again. —MS

No: Kygo and Tina Turner, “What’s Love Got to Do with It” – No. Just no. Tina Turner’s original smash (its 12” remix in particular) is already Balearic as fuck. This is cheaper than Turner’s “streetwalker” look in the song’s 1984 video. —RJ

Yes: Prince, “I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man (1979 Version)” – Much of my education on Prince’s pre-Batman catalog came via the 1993 compilation The Hits/The B-sides, which placed 1980’s “When You Were Mine” within spitting distance of 1987’s “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man.” Before I pored over the liner notes, I assumed that the songs were from the same era, not released seven years apart, for their similar new wave sensibilities and superficially cheerful approaches to mourning. Well, it turns out they were. This is the second release from the upcoming Sign ‘o’ the Times Super Deluxe edition, and it shows that in demo form, Prince had almost all of the elements in place for a song that would go on to become a hit eight years later. I prefer the ’87 version for its indelible keyboard hook and dramatic/build-up breakdown, but this is nice as a flashback to what Dirty Mind could have included, an alternate timeline that is almost as satisfying as the actual one. —RJ

Y: THEY. & Tinashe, “Play Fight” – This single from the L.A. duo’s future project The Amanda Tape takes me back to a golden era of R&B when Craig David’s “Fill Me In” was hitting right and Usher was doing that foot-roll skate dance thing in videos. Tinashe’s suave flow captures the same vibe, and I’m sure the promotional image of an old-school cassette recorder helps, too. —Clover Hope

I don’t know why you’d sing about being rich and in the club right now but sure, ok: Tinashe, “Rascal (Superstar)” – Tinashe’s new song is apparently about being really rich and waiting for the valet to pull up with your “Nascar fast car.” That’s a perfectly fine sentiment, I guess, if we weren’t currently living through These Modern Times. An argument could be made that music doesn’t need to appeal to its current historical context, and that argument would be correct. So are my musical tastes just changing? This song has all the elements of a “good” Tinashe song: speak-singing, slick percussion, a delightfully choreographed accompanying music video. So what’s missing? Probably my own appetite for this tried and true formula, considering her last round of album singles all banked on this same approach. Or, probably because I can’t get her “Die a Little Bit” remix, courtesy of Zhu, out of my brain. Do more of that Tinashe, and less of this. Or continue to do both. I’ll definitely still listen to it anyway! —Joan Summers

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