October 22, 2013

Spinning Singles | Lady Gaga, Arcade Fire, Leon T. Pearl

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The arts and entertainment section highlights some of the most interesting new singles of the week.

“Do What U Want” by Lady Gaga ft. R. Kelly

As part of her promise to release one new song per week until the Nov. 11 release of her fourth LP, ARTPOP, Lady Gaga tweeted the link to her collaboration with R. Kelly, “Do What U Want” early Monday morning. The song is classic Gaga up front, with the singer exhibiting her muscular vocals up against an equally aggressive beat and informing the world’s fellas, “You can’t have my heart and you won’t use my mind, but do what you want with my body.”

The cover art is a full-on booty shot, and you’re supposed to inform YouTube that you’re eighteen before you can look at it. This is presumably the site’s warning that “this is something ratchety,” but in truth, Gaga is one of the few female performers who pulls off “come and get it” with total flare and a sense of empowerment. And R. Kelly, with his always-perfect vocals, seems totally into it. “I could be the drink in your cup, I could be the green in your blunt,” he all-but-croons, going on to explain how he is crazy busy with the high-life but definitely still has time for romance. Read: in-the-back-of-the-club-sex. Obviously. The two don’t mesh styles perfectly and it’s noticeable, but given that each is an absolute expert of their genre, it hardly seems to matter.

Last week, Gaga tweeted that “Each song on ARTPOP was inspired by different types of adrenalin, so it’s an expression of the various rushes.” I’m not entirely sure what rush is supposed to top this genius pairing. — Kaitlyn Tiffany ’15

“Afterlife” by Arcade Fire

If high-concept disco and post-punk double albums based loosely on the Greek Myth of Orpheus and Eurydice aren’t exactly up your alley, Arcade Fire wants to change your mind. And if “Afterlife,” the band’s latest release from forthcoming record Reflektor, is any indication, they will probably be successful.

The track is classic Arcade Fire in the sense that it completely subverts what has come before it while remaining immediately recognizable as an “Arcade Fire song.” Spearheaded by a synth loop that will be echoing in the recesses of your mind long after you press pause, “Afterlife” takes morbid themes — what happens after we die, how to survive after love is lost — and makes you want to dance to them, albeit wistfully (picture the elderly man from Up in Studio 54).

That’s not to say Butler and co. trivialize these themes: Not to be overshadowed by James Murphy’s fantastic production, “Afterlife” showcases some of the band’s most powerful songwriting in years. Lyrics like those which open the song, “Afterlife, oh my God, what an awful word / After all the breath and the dirt and the fires are burnt,” convey fear, exhaustion and religious ambivalence, while the catchy, simple chorus, “Can we work it out? / We scream and shout, ’til we work it out,” reveals the heartbreak and yearning at the core of the track. — Sam Bromer ’16

“If You’re Still There” by Leon T. Pearl

“If You’re Still There,” the fourth finished track by Edinburguensian producer Leon T. Pearl, is a more pensive release than his earlier efforts. After signing to Method Records, an imprint started by the Surrey electronic duo Disclosure, Pearl put forth a smiley effort with “Take You to Market” in July. Now he’s getting serious with “If You’re Still There,” a track that steps between rhythms and vocals with artful choppiness. Featuring breaks and lurches ranging from the subtle to the violent in the sharp bass, shiny percussion and Pearl’s warm voice, this new cut successfully modernizes classic, late ’90s British 2Step garage through a distinct 2013 brightness. While Pearl takes obvious cues from Disclosure and other peers on Method, his attention to infectious hooks and undulating beats make his music seem more geared to gently swaying in a car than getting down on a sweaty dancefloor. “If You’re Still There” is no exception, and its calm, controlled madness will keep me occupied as I anxiously await a Leon T. Pearl album. — Mike Sosnick ’16