Leonard Cohen – “You Want It Darker”
“If you are the dealer, I’m out of the game,” Leonard Cohen murmurs, his honey-rich voice lower than the track’s backing organs. It’s a slow-rolling piece — half-spoken, half-sensuous — a choir behind each cry into the darkness. Regardless, he certainly isn’t out of the music game, as “You Want It Darker” is Cohen at his finest, most guarded and most solemn. The years weigh heavy on the man, and even with the passage of time, Cohen returns to speak of sin and sorrow, of temptation. Was there ever a singer more damned by their faith? Cohen’s singular lyricism captivates, biting into hypocrisy with perverse distaste.
— Alicia Lepler, Staff Writer
The Weeknd – “Starboy”
In a total of five seconds, a drone swells and bursts to make way for the tribal thump of a clean bassline, laying the foundation for a new era of The Weeknd. “Starboy” marks the surprising and wholly appreciated production of Daft Punk and vaunted past collaborator Don McKinney. The two producers seem to be working different poles of The Weeknd’s pop-forward sensibilities. Daft Punk edges towards the clean confines of house while McKinney’s garage R&B grounds everything in the haze of reverb. The Weeknd’s voice, which enlivens future hashtag “I’m a motherfuckin’ starboy“ with the exaggerated inflections of a young Michael Jackson, continues to be the pop powerhouse it’s naturally become. Accusations of him switching out his sexed-out, drugged-out image for a more family-friendly one — simply sexed out — and moving away from the more formal experimentation of his earlier projects should entirely melt away by now. This lead single proves that three mixtapes and two albums in, the Weeknd is always ready to switch up the cup.
— Sam Velazquez, A&E Editor
J Dilla – “Time: The Donut of the Heart”
As soon as J Dilla’s 2006 track “Time: The Donut of the Heart” penetrates your eardrums, you’ll find yourself transported to a place less stressful than school, more groovy and eerily familiar. First featured on his critically acclaimed instrumental hip-hop album “Donuts” (2006), “Time: The Donut of the Heart” is a standout beat, polished to a mirrorlike shine by the one and only J Dilla. Artists such as Nas, Ghostface Killah, Drake and Big Sean have honored JD by rapping over his beats. “Time: The Donut of the Heart” is a track you can listen to on repeat for hours, at which point you might as well give the whole album a crack. But who am I to tell you how to spend your time? Listen to your donut.
— Matthew Zamudio, Staff Writer