The singles bar: Waiting for ‘Lemonade’ edition

Drake performs at the Galen Center in Los Angeles, Calif., on March 5, 2012. Genaro Molina via Tribune News Service

As tomorrow’s release of Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” inches ever closer, let us enjoy the time we have left with the catchy hits set to dominate the airwaves this summer. After all, the past couple of weeks have yielded a number of outstanding singles. With the stage finally set, the battle for the title of “Song of the Summer” has finally begun.

Nick Jonas, “Close (feat. Tove Lo)”

With Justin Bieber’s remarkable career resurrection and Zayn Malik’s ascension to solo stardom, it appeared that Nick Jonas’ solo career was in danger of being forgotten amidst the shuffling of pop music’s vanguard. However, these fears were unfounded as the former teen star has returned stronger than ever with perhaps his most subdued single to date. “Close” features a veritable who’s who in the music industry, including breakout pop star Tove Lo, songwriters Justin Tranter and Julia Michaels, as well as Swedish production team Mattman & Robin. The sultry single precedes Jonas’ third solo album, “Last Year Was Complicated,” and artfully captures the tension between two lovers without being explicit. In an age of hypersexualized pop acts, this is no small feat with Jonas and Tove Lo showing remarkable restraint when they sing “Close, ooh / Oh, so close, ooh / I want you close, ooh” during the chorus. The midtempo anthem’s sleek, refined qualities are further enhanced by Jonas’ silky vocals and Mattman & Robin’s barebones production. In short, Jonas’ lead single demonstrates the ability of collaboration to produce something that is wholly unique yet undeniably a hit.

Rating: 3.5/5

Tegan & Sara, “Boyfriend”

On 2013’s “Heartthrob,” Canadian duo Tegan & Sara left behind the indie rock of their previous studio albums to create one of the year’s boldest pop albums. The radio-friendly set saw the twin sisters diving headfirst into the realm of synthpop, months before Taylor Swift’s similar reinvention with “1989” (2014). “Boyfriend” sees the duo continuing to explore these newfound pop sensibilities, thanks in part to their collaborative relationship with producer Greg Kurstin. In many of their previous collaborations, Kurstin’s infectious production threatened to overwhelm the sisters’ vocals, but it seems that a balance has been reached on the lead single of “Love You to Death,” the duo’s eighth studio album. The song wholeheartedly embraces new wave music and ventures into uncharted territory on pop radio as Tegan and Sara air their frustration with a lover who will not commit to a same-sex relationship. However, the song refuses to get weighed down by this emotional struggle, with the duo simultaneously conveying both melancholy and euphoria, especially in lines such as “You call me up like you want your best friend / You turn me on like you want your boyfriend.” While “Boyfriend” is not a particularly genre-defining song, one will be hard-pressed to find synthpop more immaculately constructed than this.

Rating: 4/5

Drake, “One Dance (feat. Wizkid & Kyla)”

Simply put, this song should not be as good as it is; Drake is clearly benefiting from other artists’ styles and current trends rather than reinventing his own sound. Yet the 29-year-old Canadian rapper does it so well that it is impossible to resist the charms of “One Dance,” Drake’s latest single from his hotly anticipated “Views from the 6.” Drawing primarily from the current dancehall revival ushered in by songs such as Rihanna’s “Work” (2016), “One Dance” is a hypnotic ode to finding love on the dancefloor as Drake coos, “That’s why I need a one dance / Got a Hennessy in my hand / One more time ‘fore I go / Higher powers taking a hold on me.” In terms of the song’s structure, producers Nineteen85 and 40 have a crafted minimalistic beat, emphasizing the addictiveness of the topline melody. Coupled with a feature from Nigerian artist Wizkid and a sample of Kyla’s “Do You Mind?” (2009), the track succeeds in fusing a variety of sounds as these two artists instill the qualities of afrobeat into “One Dance.” Only an artist as canny as Drake could so effortlessly pull off this warm fusion, resulting in arguably one of the best songs of Drake’s career and 2016 so far.

Rating: 4/5


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