Songs of the Week: Kanye’s Back! Maybe You’ve Heard?

Kanye West featuring DJ Khaled, “Theraflu”

Well, Kanye sure knows how to announce a return. After a period of relative calm post–Watch the Throne, ‘Ye crashed back into national consciousness this week by dropping this PETA– and Kris Humphries–baiting new single and then going on the greatest 24-hour date OF ALL TIME with his maybe new girlfriend Kim Kardashian. Hunger Games AND Sleep No More?!

G.O.O.D. Music, “Mercy”

Then Mr. West follows that up with the equally epic first single off the G.O.O.D. Music album. On “Mercy,” Kanye’s über-dramatic verse is nicely complemented by a comfortingly sneering Pusha (“That white frost on that pound cake / so your Duncan Heinz is irrelevant”) and a comfortingly blaww-BLAWW 2 Chainz (“OK, now catch up to my campaign / coupe the color of mayonnaise / I’m drunk and high at the same time / drinkin’ champagne on the airplane”). But stealing the show, believe it or not, is Big Sean, who is continuously proving himself to be the Michael Jordan of rapping about random things to do with girls’ butts. Aside: From where I’m sitting, the beats for both “Mercy” and “Theraflu” sure sound indebted to Hit-Boy’s excellently jerky synth-xylophone on “N***** in Paris.”

Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw, “Feel Like a Rock Star”

This here is just one amazing bit of rousing, big-tent inclusivity from Kenny and Tim: “Whatever makes you feel like a rock star / you can kick it back, chill, or you can rock hard / you busted your ass all week / now it’s your time to be / whatever you wanna be.” So keep on taxidermy-ing your grandma’s dead cat — you know, like a motherfuckin’ rock star — and sing along!

Star Slinger featuring Stunnaman and Lil B, “Bad Bitches”

Here’s the thing Lil B haters can never understand: at some point, after masses and masses of his self-distributed would-be-art-school dropout would-be-cult-leader material, you have to appreciate the man’s complete and utter inability refusal to rap on beat. Anyway, this is the third best hip-hop song of the week.

The Kickdrums featuring A$AP Rocky and Lana Del Rey, TBA

Only a snippet of this Internet-bait collaboration is available because, as production duo The Kickdrums explain, “Had to pull the Lana-A$AP track due to label reasons. Song got too big too fast. Gonna explain in more detail in an interview today. A$AP wants the track for his album …” Honestly, though, this edit — I mean, it ends with Ms. Del Rey cooing “Give me all your drugs” — is plenty satisfying.

Cadence Weapon, “Conditioning”

Edmonton MC Cadence Weapon, who’s back with new music after a few years off, boasts both an instantly engaging conversational flow and one of the most satisfyingly odd rap voices around. Bonus: His crew in this video looks like a particularly mean-spirited version of the cool kids at your college dorm’s international student wing.

White Denim, “Get Back to Love (Street Joy)”

Let’s let White Denim bassist Steve Terebecki explain this one: “We recorded ‘Don’t Say No’ off of [as a B-side]. We’re definitely pretty big R. Kelly fans. But we also did that song and the new version of ‘Street Joy’ in kind of the same style, the idea being that it’ll have this kind of online seven-inch sort of vibe — like some weird freaky early ’80s band that doesn’t really sound like us. But I think it’ll be pretty cool.” You were right, White Denim bassist Steve Terebecki. You were right.

T.I., “Love This Life”

If you were expecting some more finely tuned rage out of T.I. post (latest) prison sentence, a la “Fuck Da City Up” — well, uh, sorry. His first official comeback single, off the upcoming Trouble Man, is a vapid, highly competent retread of past pop-rap “for the ladies” hits like “Whatever You Like.” On the plus side here: “Whatever You Like” is pretty awesome.

Alabama Shakes, “Hold On”

Alabama Shakes’s debut album Boys & Girls is out next week. I suggest you buy it.

Willis Earl Beal, “Monotony”

Willis Earl Beal is a formerly homeless, highly contentious self-defined “outsider artist” with one wicked backstory. Feel free to ignore all that, though, and ride smoothly into your weekend on his chill-dude lo-fi vibes.

Filed Under: A$Ap Rocky, Kanye West, Lana Del Rey, Songs of the Week, T.I.

Amos Barshad has written for New York Magazine, Spin, GQ, XXL, and the Arkansas Times. He is a staff writer for Grantland.

Archive @ AmosBarshad

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