As the temperature dips below 70 and bursts of orange and yellow begin to dot Hillhouse, let’s reflect on some of the best songs from summer 2015. Although fall has arrived, these tracks will still sound just as good playing in our suites, booming through courtyards, or blasting at Toad’s.
“Can’t Feel My Face” — The Weeknd
More than Abel Tesfaye’s (aka The Weeknd’s) embodiment of Michael Jackson reincarnate, more than Max Martin’s hitmaking magic, more than the title’s punch line, it’s the mastery of momentum that makes “Can’t Feel My Face” an instant classic. From the introduction’s ominous, synthetic aura, to the moment Tesfaye eeks “OOH!” the track sucks you into a world of passion that is as self-indulgent as it is self-destructive.
Tesfaye’s snapshot of hook-up and drug culture is fatalistic — the first words out of his mouth are “And I know she’ll be the death of me,” followed by the not-so-subtle “At least we’ll both be numb.” But as the track progresses, the mood lightens. You hear over and over again — from a choir, several back-up tracks, and Tesfaye himself — distortions of “But I love it! But I love it!” And then everything climaxes at the bridge when Tesfaye concludes, “She told me you’ll never be alone!”
Whether those voices keeping him company are real or imagined is yet to be determined.
“All My Love” — Major Lazer, Ariana Grande and Machel Montano
Ariana Grande’s image problem is remedied only by her voice. No other pop starlet can publicly declare that she hates America, survive Donutgate, date Big Sean — and get him to hate her — and still maintain a cult following. Chalk it up to stunning pipes: knife-through-warm-butter, 5000 thread count, super-lux tonality, never oversinging, but never sounding restrained. On “All My Love,” Major Lazer produces dance hall music reminiscent of an angry hornet’s nest, and Machel Montano’s crazy Caribbean soca borders on grating. But Ariana sings stupidly well, the benevolent matriarch of a rabid dance floor transforming chaos into cosmic love.
“Loud Places” — Jamie xx and Romy
A typical college student is supposed to like certain things. It’s “fun” to go out five nights a week. To drink until you pass out or throw up. To hook up with random people at Woad’s. These activities are frequently fun, to be sure — but perhaps just as frequently, we force ourselves to enjoy things we’d really rather not do.
From its opening lines, “Loud Places” appeals to tucked-away parts of ourselves that implicitly understand this collegiate cognitive dissonance: “I go to loud places / To find someone / To be quiet with.” A sample of indistinct chatter and a pensive piano accent precede this poem, both of which establish Jamie xx’s bubble of reality — a place where time stands still on a dance floor and you look inward while everyone else projects outward. The couplet “I go to those places that we used to go / They seem so quiet now, I’m all alone” evokes the essence of Robyn’s classic “Dancing On My Own.” And the sample of Idris Muhammad’s “Could Heaven Ever Be Like This” adds both a dance groove and a melancholy aftertaste: “I have never reached such heights.”
Call it a going-out anthem for people who want to stay in.