Triple Single Review: Katy Perry, Lana Del Rey, Take That

In the 21st century, the pop music industry is more productive than it has ever been before. It’s becoming harder and harder to find the musical diamonds in the coal.

So to help you dig for those gems, here are write-ups of three brand new singles you certainly don’t want to miss. Let the music play!

I. Katy Perry feat. Skip Marley — “Chained To The Rhythm”

Initial reaction: Oh no, this is “Uncondituuunally” part II.

After her successful third album Prism and the not-quite-so-successful stand-alone single “Rise”, Katy Perry is back with the lead single of her upcoming fourth studio album. “Chained To The Rhythm” is a midtempo dancehall song co-written by none other than Sia, omnipresent purveyor of cringeworthy metaphors. Her characteristic songwriting does shine through on the track, but fortunately it’s not as overloaded with metaphors as other Sia creations.

Indeed, “Chained To The Rhythm” is amazing in that it makes current and important statements about complacency and delusion. The verses in particular are catchy as hell, just as we expect Katy’s music to be. Brilliant, surprisingly subversive lines include the pointed question “are you lonely up there in Utopia?

Sadly, there are three problems with “Chained To The Rhythm”. Firstly, the chorus isn’t quite on the same level as the verses. Secondly, Skip Marley’s bridge doesn’t add anything to the track. Thirdly, Katy Perry (and, presumably, Sia) desperately need somebody to tell them which syllables to stress in words.

It’s simple: if a word doesn’t fit the rhythm of a song, use another one. The english language has more than enough words. But, like she already did on “Unconditonally”, Katy rather puts stress on the wrong syllables. Now, it’s fine if it happens once in a song, but on “Chained To The Rhythm” it happens way too often. “No-THING”, “hap-PI-ly”, “dis-tor-TION”, and “bet-TER” are only a few examples that make it hard to like this song.

All in all, “Chained To The Rhythm” is a good effort ruined by wrongly stressed syllables. That being said, the eerily cheery retro-futuristic music video, set in the ficticious amusement park “Oblivia”, is absolutely fantastic.

II. Lana Del Rey — “Love”

Initial reaction: So. Painfully. Accurate.

Elizabeth Grant, better known as Lana Del Rey, has released a few brilliant songs in her career (“Summertime Sadness”, “Brooklyn Baby”) and a few boring ones (“Blue Jeans”, “Music To Watch Boys To”). Her latest track with the simple title “Love” clearly belongs to the first category.

Unsurprisingly, “Love” is a laid-back downtempo track carried by Lana’s characteristic vocals. What makes it so special are its effortless, timeless hooks in combination with its intriguing lyrics. Moreover, the breathtaking space-age-inspired music video fits the song perfectly.

“Look at you kids with your vintage music,” Lana sings in the beginning. The opening line already makes it crystal clear who this song is about: the current generation of young, vintage-obsessed dreamers and social-media-visionaries, who “get all dressed up to go nowhere in particular.”

Throughout the entire song, it’s unclear whether Lana is criticising the subjects of “Love” or celebrating their way of life — maybe she’s doing both at the same time. Interestingly, she includes herself in the narrative by switching to first-person singular pronouns in the final chorus. “It doesn’t matter if I’m not enough for the future or the things to come,” she muses. “‘Cause I’m young and in love.”

Listening to “Love”, it’s all too easy for a young person in the 21st century to identify with its narrative. Seldom before has a certain lifestyle been captured this impressively.

III. Take That — “Giants”

Initial reaction: This is no “These Days”, is it?

Do you remember 14th November 2014, the glorious day on which Take That released “These Days”? Back then we were all wondering whether the ex-boyband would still be any good as a trio. Then we heard their new single for the first time and realised that they were, in fact, better than they’d ever been before. Even in 2017, “These Days” remains one of the best pop songs ever released.

Why are we talking about “These Days” when this is a review of “Giants”, you wonder? The sad answer is that “Giants” isn’t really worth talking about — at least not in comparison with Take That’s earlier masterpiece. Comparing both songs makes sense, given that they are the lead singles to the albums III and Wonderland respectively. Also, they are both straightforward, upbeat popsongs.

The brand new Take That track, “Giants”, isn’t exactly bad, but it’s pretty boring. It feels like we’ve heard the chorus a thousand times before, and the lyrics are anything but impressive. The song may work well on mainstream radio, but it’s a far cry from “These Days” or, indeed, the more recent Sigma collaboration “Cry”.

Let’s hope that the new Take That album Wonderland will include a few more exciting songs than this one. After all, the band have made strange lead single choices before (“Greatest Day”) and are certainly capable of creating flawless and meaningful pop.

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