Five weeks. We’re only five weeks into Donald Trump’s presidency, and yet it feels like it’s been a small eternity. The constant flow of misdirection, leaks and alternative facts have changed the tenor of conversation overheard in the real world and the social media space. The anxiety has been slowly seeping into our music as well. It shone through on the Grammys stage during A Tribe Called Quest and Busta Rhymes’ blistering “We the People” performance, and in some of the month’s top releases from Katy Perry and Father John Misty.
February saw the return of some of pop’s biggest names coming to reveal their summer wares. According to a little data dive from FiveThirtyEight, the majority of the songs that go on to be named the “song of the summer” actually drop well before spring. It takes time, it seems, for those melodies to crawl into listeners’ heads. So we’ve got some strong contenders this month, alongside the return of several sorely missed indie mainstays.
Read on for a few breakdowns of six of the month’s choice tracks, and check out the full Spotify playlist of February’s best below.
“Slide” by Calvin Harris featuring Frank Ocean, Migos
On “Slide,” Frank Ocean and Migos did the seemingly impossible — made a Calvin Harris track one of the must-hear songs of the month. Ocean’s stylish and atypical flows sound great over Harris’ rollerblading jam instrumental, and Migos’ “gelato” raps keep the energy high over the breaks. An easy early call for song of the summer, if radio gets hip to the stylings.
“Mask Off” by Future
Atlanta’s very own Future knows how to make a statement, and the statement he made in February 2017 was “I don’t sleep.” The artist released two albums on back-to-back Fridays, the streetwise FUTURE and the teary-eyed, romantic HNDRXX. “Mask Off” is one of the most distinctive songs on the albums, leaning on a vintage flute instrumental, reminiscent of Wu-Tang.
“Jethro” by Thundercat featuring Flying Lotus
Undeniably the most transcendently beautiful minute and a half you’ll spend today, “Jethro” by Thundercat is an airy gem. It’s one of the more hopeful cuts off the artist’s scatterbrained Drunk, which experiments in introducing some of punk’s political satire to jazz and R&B, à la the Mothers of Invention.
“Cool Your Heart” by Dirty Projectors featuring Dawn Richards
Dirty Projectors may have been silent for about five years, but leader David Longstreth has been busy, producing and composing for Solange, Joanna Newsom, Kanye West and Rihanna. Dirty Projectors, the band’s late-career self-titled album, takes those influences and mixes them back in with the band’s quirk pop to make the strangest series of heartbreak anthems in recent history.
“NNGE” by Oddisee featuring Toine
“I mean what is there to fear?” Oddisee asks over the infectious break beats of “NNGE.” “I’m from black America this is just another year.” The Iceberg, released Feb. 24, shows the Muslim American MC coming into his own as a thinker and as a voice for those who find themselves in the Trump administration’s crosshairs.
“Love” by Lana Del Rey
A leak may have rushed Lana Del Rey’s “Love” out into the world, but the world is better off for it. It faces the anxieties of the modern world with a nonjudgmental, nostalgic air, asking the listener not to worry despite them having “seen so much, you could get the blues.” It pushes the time-honored wisdom that love is the answer, and despite us having witnessed so much evidence to the contrary in recent years, she makes it feel true once again.
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