Our favorite things this week include new Smino, an appearance by FKA Twigs, new Carly Rae Jepsen and old Scooby Doo.
Carly Rae Jepsen released a new single, “Party For One,” and it’s on time and on brand. Jepsen’s brand is a combination of bubblegum pop, hopeless romantic, and self-empowered badass, and these all come through beautifully in her new song and accompanying music video.
Jepsen has worked her way out of teen pop and established herself as a more serious, adult pop star with the release of her 2015 album Emotion, and fans have been eagerly awaiting new music since. This single is a further development in the same direction. In the chorus she sings, “Party for one / If you don’t care about me / Making love to myself / Back on my beat,” and she is taking charge of her happiness and sexuality. It’s a great just-been-jilted jam—the kind of song she’s known for—but she faces her adult audience more decisively, both with the allusion to masturbation and with the casting and setting of the music video.
The video is set in a hotel, and features people in their rooms, all half-dressed, heartbroken, and dancing and crying through the heartbreak. They’re working to rebuild themselves individually, but there is a moment of recognition at the end when a power outage drives all the characters to the hotel lobby, where they dance together, half-dressed, and find comfort in being sad and resilient together.
The video is also great because the casting is so diverse in terms of race, gender, age, and sexuality, and works quietly to equalize heartbreak, and therefore love, across these barriers implicitly. This isn’t the focus of the video, but it does this work powerfully anyway. (Marisa Clogher)
After releasing blkswn last year, Smino was swiftly offered a seat at hip-hop’s table. He ditched his St. Louis digs to move to Chicago, where he teamed with Ravyn Lenae and Monte Booker to create the artist collective Zero Fatigue. His new Noir shows off Smino's velvety flow and audacious vocal dexterity in a playful soundscape.
On “Klink,” Monte Booker implements a flamenco guitar riff that is jarring and exciting. Toward the end of “L.M.F.,” Smino plays with tribal drumbeats, but the beats never upstage Smino himself. his coos, shrieks, harmonies, and mumbles throughout Noir show off his ability to bend his voice to be uniquely himself. On “Tequila Mockingbird,” he effortlessly jumps into a falsetto while he accompanies himself via loops of his whisper-sing. His vocals make the dub track fresh. On “Hoopti,” he plays with New Orleans’ Brown beat. Rather than borrow from Big Freedia like Drake, he uses bounce as one more color on in his palate to create an original sound that his unmistakably Smino. (Lisa Chupp)
There have been 11 incarnations of Scooby Doo since he and the Scooby gang were created in 1969, so almost every era has a Scooby show it can call its own. Some are painful—anything with Scrappy Doo, A Pup Named Scooby Doo, all of the animated movies—and the originals are laced with problematic racial stereotypes that were common coin at the time. Still, some hold up. The emo-era What’s New, Scooby Doo updates the original sensibility, and Be Cool, Scooby Doo makes Daphne the comedic center as she jumps from absurd idea to absurd idea, committing herself to miming to help solve one mystery, and obeying her understanding of the laws of feng shui to solve another.
But 2010’s Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated (available on Boomerang) is something very different. The two-season-long series tries to do for the Scooby Doo canon what comic book writer Grant Morrison did for Batman and the DC Universe. Morrison’s run of Batman stories tried to unify the decades of Batman stories into one mammoth, semi-coherent whole, and the big picture project during his stint at DC was to explain why so many aliens and monsters threaten the Earth. Mystery Incorporated takes on a similar task as it provides a reason for the countless mask-wearing, monster-faking crimes kept happening around the Scooby gang.
Not surprisingly, the story is pretty dense, but it is also an Easter egg delivery system, and that’s central to its aesthetic. With high profile voice actors and call-backs to the Scooby Doo mythos, H.P. Lovecraft, blaxploitation movies, and Hanna-Barbara stable, Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated constantly reminds viewers that it’s a show—one to be enjoyed as a narrative and a game. It has to be watched through the credits to fully absorb, and you’ll only fully get it if you’ve watched the other series. And in case you need another reason to check it out, there's a character named Hot Dog Water. Really. (Alex Rawls)
It’s easy to be impressed by FKA twigs. The 30-year old British avant-pop singer is, if nothing else, meticulous. She has maintained artistic control over her projects, writing and producing all her own songs and assuming the director’s chair for her music videos. She seamlessly combines choral music with R&B, buzzing synths with unpredictable rhythms, and tricky choreography with sexually direct lyrics. Her aesthetic brand is otherworldy, and perhaps she isn’t of this world. Maybe we earthlings aren’t worthy of her. Whatever, her theatrics are only a part of the bigger story. Tahliah Barnett is also a plugged-in, modern industry woman. And now, she seems poised to carve a spot for herself across in the United States.
Four years after premiering her stunning debut studio album, LP1, Twigs joined forces with A$AP Rocky in his new music video, “Fukk Sleep”, released earlier this month. The song is from his latest album, Testing, which came out in May. The video takes Twigs and Rocky through a joy ride in New York City, from the banality of dark streets and a convenience store to the strip club and a fancy dinner party. Although it’s not Twigs’ original work, she makes her presence felt in a supporting role as his sidekick, dressed to the nines in her typically eccentric outfits.
“Fukk Sleep” gives fans something to chew on until she puts out another album, which isn’t as soon as they would like. She represents the careful, slow artistry that’s rare today in the hyper-speed streaming environment. It’s what makes her both refreshing and intriguing. Her creative output relies on the painstaking process of hitting all the right chords (literally and figuratively), and in doing so, rejecting instant gratification. We may live in a world of fast pop, but Twigs doesn’t buy into the hustle. Now, all we can do is wait. (Devorah Levy-Pearlman)