The singles bar: The stars are out edition

The album art for Nicki Minaj's 'Barbie Tingz' is pictured. Via Republic Records

In addition to this spring’s excellent album releases, namely Cardi B’s “Invasion of Privacy” and Kacey Musgraves’ “Golden Hour,” the coming of warmer weather has also led to a bevy of excellent singles from some of music’s biggest stars. Here are some of the best and biggest hits that the coming months will have to offer:

“Chun-Li” and “Barbie Tingz” — Nicki Minaj

Now that’s a comeback. After the underwhelming release of her so-called diss track “No Frauds” early last year, Nicki Minaj is back with a vengeance, returning to a more unadulterated hip-hop sound. That is not to say Minaj is not simply rehashing old territory of herself, as she stays current by drawing up various sonic trends to create two surefire hits.

Of the two, “Chun-Li” stands out as Minaj addresses a reputation that she perceives as unfair. Over a sedated backbeat and perfectly timed percussion, Minaj’s flow is impeccable, especially as she declares, “They need rappers like me! / So they can get on their fucking keyboards! / And make me the bad guy, Chun-Li.” Though it is safe to say that Minaj is referencing the famed “Street Fighter” character in only aesthetic and name, since said character is not actually a villain, the aesthetic works to create what feels like a true return to form, placing the track among her greats like “Itty Bitty Piggy” (2009).

“Barbie Tingz,” which appears to be getting released as a proper single due to a music video teaser for the track, is another good effort by Minaj, though it lacks the imagination of the “Chun-Li.” Tapping into trap music, Minaj feels almost a little on autopilot here, especially considering her decision to reuse her lyrical motif of barbies from her “Pink Friday” (2010) era. However, Minaj on autopilot is still better than most rappers at the top of their game, and the track is elevated by the inclusion of ’80s synths and fun one-liners like “It’s time to make hits, and it’s time to diss.”

Rating: 4.5/5 and 3.5/5

“Nice for What” — Drake

To say that 2018 has been Drake’s year would be an understatement. The Canadian hip-hop star landed another No. 1 hit of his career with “God’s Plan” (2018), a feel-good hit discussing his success. While the track is decent, it pales in comparison to “Nice for What,” Drake’s most original and freshest-sounding hit in years.

Sonically, the track makes the genius choice of drawing up bounce music — a style of New Orleans  hip-hop built around a call-and-response technique — to create a party anthem for the ages. The song’s lyrics reinforce this for good measure, brilliantly sampling Lauyrn Hill’s “Ex-Factor” (1998). As a result, the chorus of “Nice for What” is built around the bridge from Hill’s original song, as she lets loose with, “Care for me, care for me, you said you’d care for me / There for me, there for me, said you’d be there for me.” With the track already debuting at No. 1, it seems that Drake is on a hot streak this year.

Rating 4.5/5

“One Kiss” — Calvin Harris with Dua Lipa

Floorfiller, which refers to simple dance music that excites the audience, is never a bad thing when released by Scottish DJ Calvin Harris. On “One Kiss,” his collaboration with the It Girl of 2018, Dua Lipa, this rule holds up.

Returning to the house-inspired sound that made Harris so popular in the first place, “One Kiss” is a decent dance tune that is built around the simple refrain of Lipa cooing, “One kiss is all it takes / Fallin’ in love with me / Possibilities / I look like all you need.” While the track fails to excite like Harris‘s landmark collaboration, “This Is What You Came For” with pop icon Rihanna, it does the trick and will definitely be featured on any party playlist for the foreseeable future.

Rating: 3/5