The singles bar: getting back in the swing of things edition

Calvin Harris performs in Rock in Rio Madrid 2012. (Photo by Carlos Delgado)

With the first full week of school finally out of the way here at Tufts, the time has come to dissect the deluge of new music that has coincided with this back-to-school madness. Here are some of the biggest songs that will probably be inescapable by the time Thanksgiving rolls around.

“The Greatest” 3/5

As the old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Australian singer/songwriter-turned-pop-star Sia has certainly adhered to this wise maxim on her latest single “The Greatest,” which was released on Sept. 6. Reportedly the lead single for her upcoming eighth studio album, “We Are Your Children,” the track sees Sia returning to much of the same territory she has previously explored. In terms of production, the influence and success of “Cheap Thrills” (2016) can be felt all over the track, with a fast-paced tempo that somehow still feels relaxed thanks to its island influences. The song’s lyrics also retread past Sia hits such as the uplifting “Titanium” (2011), with the powerhouse vocalist belting, “I’m free to be the greatest here tonight, the greatest.” A strong but all-too-short verse from hip-hop sensation Kendrick Lamar adds a little unexpected edge to this otherwise by-the-books number. That being said, the radio is going to play “The Greatest” within an inch of its life, mainly due to its generic but well-executed qualities, which, coupled with streams from the heart-wrenching video that alludes to the tragedy in Orlando this past summer, will have this song playing at every pregame this fall.

“Perfect Illusion” 3.5/5

Simply put, it is quite odd that this is where Lady Gaga is in her career right now. After all, the pop icon is not even a decade into her career, and yet, at times, it feels like she has gone through more reinventions than most artists have in their entire careers. This brings one to “Perfect Illusion,” out Sept. 9, the lead single to her upcoming fifth studio album “Joanne,” which is due for release on Oct. 21. This is a song that is another reminder to never underestimate Lady Gaga. Completely bucking current radio trends, it evokes the glam rock and disco of the 1980s. Working with a new slate of collaborators, including Mark Ronson of “Uptown Funk” (2015) and Amy Winehouse fame, as well as Kevin Parker, the frontman of Tame Impala, Gaga has succeeded in offering up a defiant slice of pop music, with the ferocity of her vocals fully on display when she sings “It wasn’t love, it was a perfect illusion,” during the chorus. The song’s key change toward its end is a wonderful throwback to the pop music of yesteryear, offering a thrilling climax instead of just fading away. The only criticism that can be lodged toward “Perfect Illusion” is that the track relies too heavily on nostalgia to succeed and sounds too much like an album track from Gaga’s own “Born This Way” (2011), which previously explored rock sounds. While only time will tell whether this reinvention will succeed in reigniting Gaga’s commercial prospects, the track will surely go down as one of 2016’s most memorable releases, notwithstanding one’s own personal opinion.

“My Way” 2.5/5

Unfortunately for Scottish DJ Calvin Harris, sometimes one’s formula can begin to grow a little stale, which is all too evident by the overwhelming meh-ness of his new single “My Way.” Released this past Friday, the follow-up to his summer smash “This Is What You Came For” (2016) comes across across as reductive and fails to reach the highs of Rihanna’s sheer charisma on Harris’ summer hit. Harris, who sang prominently and fairly well on most of his early material, comes off on this breakup anthem sounding unedited and too relaxed. Although this may be an attempt to cater to radio’s sound du jour of breezy pop, “My Way” ultimately becomes nothing more than house-inspired mediocrity for the masses, especially since the song is built around the refrain of “You were the one thing in my way.” However, Harris has seemingly scored major public relations points with regards to the song purportedly being about his superstar ex-girlfriend, Taylor Swift. Even though he has denied said rumors, this is probably enough to keep people interested in what should instead be a footnote in the career of one of EDM’s most prominent figures.


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