Gwen Stefani- “Used to Love You”
With her first post-divorce track, Gwen is going back to her ska-soaked-in-sadness roots ala No Doubt in their “Tragic Kingdom”days. At first listen, “Used to Love You” seems similar to 2003’s nostalgic, bubble-gum soaked “Cool,” but it strikes a deeper, more painful chord. Stefani’s voice breaks during the chorus as she laments, “Oh, oh, oh I used to love you.” The music video is simple: It’s just Gwen staring at the viewer, practically on the verge of tears, yet remaining strong. “I don’t know why I used to love you,” she admits. She tries to play it cool, but there’s genuine pain in her eyes and her signature bleached blonde roots are darker than usual—she is worn down. When you’ve made countless definitive breakup tracks, who soundtracks your own breakup? Right now Gwen needs us, and we need to finally pay her back for all those nights we spent elbow-deep in a pint of ice cream sobbing to “Don’t Speak.” (Just for the record, Gwen, I always thought you deserved way better than that 2008 has-been.)
Justin Bieber- “I’ll Show You”
The best part of Justin Bieber’s video for “Sorry” is the distinct lack of Justin Bieber. Contrastingly, “I’ll Show You” gives us a glimpse of Bieber attempting to look introspective as he slow-motion runs atop some grassy mountains, contemplating his dwindling youth and literally attempting to skate past his seemingly endless list of misdemeanors, indiscretions, and figurative mountains of insensitivity. Bieber wants you to know that he has feelings too. The track’s chorus of is dreamy, calling to mind early tracks by French electronica band M83. Bieber is attempting to move in a more “serious” direction in the world of E.D.M., as evidenced by his collaborations with Jack U and his attempts to separate his music from his antics. Too bad you can’t magically distract people from the fact that you’re an insensitive asshole 97 percent of the time just by dropping some new beats.
Drake- “Hotline Bling”
With his latest single, alum to both Degrassi and Young Money Records Aubrey “Drake” Graham proved Illuminati theorists correct: He is, in fact, nothing but a turtleneck filled with anguish who can’t dance. Like your drunk frat-boy cousin at a wedding, Drake’s awkward jerky dance moves have provided the Internet with insurmountable amounts of joy that only a sad turtleneck can provide. My favorite thing about “Hotline Bling” is the fact that the turtleneck is probably Drake’s way of getting back at his girl for “hanging with some girls I’ve never seen before.” Drake was like, “If you can get new friends, then I can get a new bomb-ass turtleneck sweater.” The single and subsequent video have already been parodied by both pugs and Sufjan Stevens, proving that part of Drake’s charm is his seemingly infinite replicability.
Ariana Grande- “Focus”
Ariana Grande may have debuted lavender locks, but her sound is firmly rooted in that of early aughts club bangers. “Focus” draws parallels to early Destiny’s Child tracks like “Bootylicious.” As always, Grande keeps her sound catchy, yet but she makes sure it exists safely within the confines of pop music, showing no desire to grow lyrically or musically. Grande is extremely talented as a vocalist, but she’s not particularly memorable. The music video for “Focus” is generic; it even looks like it took place in the same lavender gradient room that Drake rented for “Hotline Bling.” Prancing around in a sparkly silver crop top and skirt set, Grande tries to look intergalactic but ultimately comes off as plastic.
Finally, after four years of trying to quell our tears over the last chords of “Someone Like You,” Adele is back with a new album to remind us just how hard we can ugly-cry. Start stocking up on waterproof mascara and tissues now because “25” comes out November 20, and it’s clear that Adele is ready to reclaim her throne as the queen of the top 40. The music video for the first single off of “25,” “Hello,” has already reached almost 200 million views on YouTube just days after its release. “Hello” reminds us of the seemingly limitless capabilities of Adele’s voice, particularly when the chorus soars to a blissful opus of anguish. Adele’s music is cinematic, brimming with the maximum amount of human pain. “Hello” punches you in the face with sadness; it’s a deeply satisfying listen, even if it’s well on its way to being overplayed… and justifiably so. The media is on the verge of a full-blown Adele binge, as she slated for appearances on both “Saturday Night Live” and “Today.”