Pink, Avett Brothers, and Kevin Federline: Grading the week's best (and worst) new singles
Every Friday, EW's music staff takes a hard listen to the biggest new tracks and offers up our unfiltered opinions. Read on for reviews of new tracks by Blake Shelton, Kevin Federline, the Avett Brothers, Pink, the Julie Ruin, and more.
The Avett Brothers, "Ain't No Man"
The roots rockers return with a thoroughly modern new sound: the first single from their upcoming True Sadness takes tried-and-true tricks (lush harmonies) and spices them with a groovy bass melody, an electronic boom-bap, and a massive chorus that's straight outta Queen's pep-rally-soundtrack playbook. B+ –Kevin O'Donnell
Kevin Federline feat. Crichy Crich, "Hollywood"
Which is more disturbing: That Kevin Federline is still working on his rap career 10 years after his embarassing Playing With Fire? Or that his new music video for "Hollywood" prominently features a fake Amber Rose getting her fingers all up in a fake Kanye West posterior? If that scene's not worth a lawsuit, surely someone else can take these guys to court for felony violation of good taste. D –Nolan Feeney
M.I.A., "Rewear It"
Sitting through a three-minute commercial is a lot more fun when the ad doubles as a music video from M.I.A., who provides H&M with a brand-new banger called "Rewear It" for World Recycle Week. The globe-trotting provocateur isn't always a team player with big brands—see her legal drama with the NFL and French soccer team Paris Saint German—but this stuttering track refreshes the sounds of 2013's Matangi and makes the case for why companies should write her checks more often. B- –Nolan Feeney
Fossa Beats feat. Elkka, "Echoes"
Don't let the name fool you: Good Enuff, a new imprint of Diplo's Mad Decent record label, doesn't want to be just adequate—it's got an ambitious plan to give away a new song for free each weekday. Its first offering, from Australian producer Fossa Beats, is lobbying for a spot on your upcoming pool-party playlists with a puffy-cloud beat capable of thawing any lingering winter blues. B –Nolan Feeney
Blake Shelton, "Savior's Shadow"
No one will be blasting Blake Shelton's latest single out of their pickup truck — unless they're en route to a church picnic: "Savior's Shadow" is a hymn straight from the choir loft, featuring devotional lyrics like, "Though the devil tried to break me, my sweet Jesus won't forsake me." Shelton's twang pleasantly blends with gentle guitar strumming, but overall, the country star forgoes any semblance of originality in favor of giving his more religious fans a garden-variety song of praise. C- –Ariana Bacle
P!nk, "Just Like Fire"
Nobody does explosive power-pop better than P!nk, so it's a little surprising that she's in full campfire singalong mode on her Max Martin-produced comeback single. "Just Like Fire," from the upcoming Alice Through the Looking Glass soundtrack, has less in common with big bar blowouts like "Raise Your Glass" and "So What" than it does, say, Adele's "Send My Love (To Your New Lover)," which Martin also produced. Yet even when pop's feistiest diva tries to mellow out over acoustic guitars, she can't quite lose her edge: yup, that's Pink spitting some rhymes in the bridge of this ode to individuality. A- –Nolan Feeney <iframe class="youtube" title="YouTube" src="https://web.archive.org/web/20160506211749if_/http://www.youtube.com/embed/zWU3CotSYpE" width="612" height="345" data-mce-fragment="1" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" allowfullscreen="" resize="0" replace_attributes="1" name=""></iframe>
A$AP Ferg feat. Missy Elliott, "Strive"
The structure of "Strive" is so commonplace in pop by now — minimalist keyboard and clap sounds building up to a climactic drop — but in this case the payoff is worth it. Both Ferg and Missy deliver such fiery verses, it's enough to forget the generic chorus. B –Christian Holub
The Julie Ruin, "I Decide"
Riot grrl icon Kathleen Hanna roars back with her band the Julie Ruin on this first single from their forthcoming album Hit Reset. With scuzzy guitars and a na-na-na chorus, "I Decide" is a polished realization of the lo-fi basement punk from her Bikini Kill days in the '90s. Hanna, who has publicly struggled with Lyme Disease, is still as fierce as ever with rousing lyrics like "I might make mistakes…but I'll decide!" B+ –Jessica Goodman <iframe src="https://web.archive.org/web/20160506211749if_/https://www.youtube.com/embed/Ja0bpkNxSVY" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="" data-mce-fragment="1" class="" scrolling="no" resize="0" replace_attributes="1" name=""></iframe>
J Dilla feat. Nas, "The Sickness"
The Diary, J Dilla's long-lost vocal album, is a posthumous exploration of the late rapper's indelible stamp on hip-hop. On "The Sickness," he seems electrifyingly alive, slicing Madlib's menacing beat with verses as vehement as they are brash. Nas doesn't retreat, either; his jabs are just as lethal. A- –Dana Getz
Kanye West, "I Don't Want to Be Liked (Freestyle)"
Turns out all that separates a Kanye West stage tirade from a Kanye West freestyle is a piano vamp. The 38-year-old rapper made headlines earlier this week when he shared more comments about his ongoing Taylor Swift feud during his first concert since releasing The Life of Pablo in February. But fans also seized on a freestyle — unofficially dubbed "I Don't Want to Be Liked" — that West debuted at the Manila gig. With a combination of sparse piano and Auto-Tune that sounds like a poor man's "Only One," the rambling song homes in on West's current artistic theme: "Most artists aren't appreciated in their own time / So the more and more disliked, the better I must be doing." But even if he's confident in his work, West will no doubt dig deeper creatively for his forthcoming album Turbo Grafx 16. B –Eric Renner Brown <iframe src="https://web.archive.org/web/20160506211749if_/https://www.youtube.com/embed/0yA7E4cyhsc" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="" data-mce-fragment="1" class="" scrolling="no" resize="0" replace_attributes="1" name=""></iframe>
Car Seat Headrest, "Fill in the Blank"
Will Toledo, the prolific 23-year-old behind indie rock act Car Seat Headrest, dropped another power-pop gem Monday when he shared "Fill in the Blank," the opening track off next month's Teens of Denial. As lead single "Vincent" hinted, Denial has some more teeth than Toledo's extensive catalog of Bandcamp-distributed music, and with its jagged riffs and layered vocal harmonies, "Fill in the Blank" continues the trend. But the young singer-songwriter's Rivers Cuomo-style lyrical candor remains intact: "You have no right to be depressed," he yelps on the song's slam-dunk singalong chorus. "You haven't tried hard enough to like it." A –Eric Renner Brown <iframe src="https://web.archive.org/web/20160506211749if_/https://www.youtube.com/embed/s_a1hPwXiWw" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="" data-mce-fragment="1" class="" scrolling="no" resize="0" replace_attributes="1" name=""></iframe>
Action Bronson, "Mr. 2 Face
Action Bronson celebrates his imminent Blue Chips 7000 mixtape with this heavy banger. Over a sample of Herbie Hancock's funky 1962 classic "Watermelon Man," the foodie MC comes out firing, but it's really Jah Tiger's show, rapping with reggae-flavor over the song's cautionary hook. Meyhem Lauren rounds out the triumvirate with jubilant partying, marking a welcome return for Bronson after his studio debut Mr. Wonderful. B –Will Robinson
Little Mix featuring Sean Paul, "Hair (Remix)"
Little Mix's "Hair" reaches new heights thanks to an assist from Platinum-certified hit-maker Sean Paul. The beat-driven track is not just an early contender for song of the summer, but an empowering anthem that encourages women to take control of the post-breakup narrative. A- —Amanda Michelle Steiner <iframe src="https://web.archive.org/web/20160506211749if_/https://embed.spotify.com/?uri=spotify:track:5jlsg7onynIipVy5krMaRZ" width="300" height="80" frameborder="0" data-mce-fragment="1" class="" scrolling="no" allowfullscreen="" resize="0" replace_attributes="1" name=""></iframe>