Mar. 13 2018
Music has the power to completely transform your mood from gloomy to glad with just a few taps on your streaming account. So in the spirit of songs as stress-relievers, every week star contributor Callie Ahlgrim is back with a playlist of tracks you need to add to your playlists according to a theme. This week, Callie’s helping you get pumped for the day with a “Leather Jacket, Smeared Lipstick” themed playlist. Or as she describes, “A selection of songs that you might hear at one of those dive bars with pool tables and tasteful neon signs — where the vibe is a little grimy but effortlessly cool. Listen to this playlist when you want to feel like smoky-eyed swaggering magic on two legs.”
- “Pleasure This Pain” – Kwamie Liv, Angel Haze. The combination of Kwamie Liv’s husky vocals with Angel Haze’s self-assured rap verse makes this song feel both threatening and bewitching. It feels as though it’s sung by The Odyssey’s sirens that lure sailors to their deaths. The two women on this track perfectly capture the limbo that you inhabit when you question your partner’s devotion. They embody the space that exists between insecurity and strength, like flawed heroines fighting like hell to create their own narratives.
- “Arabella” – Arctic Monkeys. I feel the same way about Alex Turner’s songwriting that I imagine many English majors feel about Shakespeare. His lyricism manages to capture all the charms, all the pitfalls — in short, all the complexities — of any woman he falls in love with. To top it off, the band’s arrangements and overall tone of AM makes it the kind of album you listen to after you meet and then lose the love of your life while drunk at 2 AM.
- “Desperado” – Rihanna. This song exemplifies Rihanna’s departure from her earlier, bubblier works. Although she was always capable of melding rock with pop with R&B, ANTI transformed her from the queen of the Singles Chart to a bonafide album artist. It works best when played within the context of the larger body of work, but “Desperado” is an undeniable standout. It radiates a darker, weirder, more mature energy that suits the self-proclaimed “Bad Gal” extremely well. It eschews her clubbier anthems for a seedy bar vibe that makes its listeners feel edgy by association.
- “PRBLMS” – 6LACK. 6LACK sort of comes across like the older, cooler, more seasoned version of Big Sean in “I Don’t Fuck With You.” This is, most simply, a break-up song — but it’s also an atmospheric, composed work of art. It puts you in the mood to text with brutal honesty and block every fuckboy you’ve ever met on Instagram. I highly suggest listening to this song while you apply makeup for a Friday night out, because it’ll ensure zero tolerance for drunken suitors who are below your standards.
- “Babylon (feat. Kendrick Lamar)” – SZA. Most people are now familiar with SZA because of her excellent studio debut, but this woman has been crafting sounds that are exquisite, moody, and poetic for many years. Her earlier tracks from Z are both choral and brutal, spider-webbing her ethereal vocals, gossamer keyboard tones, and fleeting drum patterns to create a sort of tempting fragility. Her voice may melt into the background, but with cruelly seductive lines like “I bet you hate me now / Bring on the thorny crown,” shards of clarity poke through the haze.
- “Wicked Games” – The Weeknd. There are few true masters of the intersection between widespread appeal and confessional gloom, but if only one could exist, it would be The Weeknd. In fact, he was one of the non-genre’s main harbingers — drifting onto the scene with such mystery, such anonymity, that music journalists scrambled to figure out if he was even a real person. To this day, that legendary introduction to the world of music only heightens the intrigue of The Weeknd’s earliest works, and “Wicked Games” still reigns over experimental odes to isolation. As Amber Bravo described for Pitchfork, it is “pop chops posturing as wallflower, braggadocio swallowed in self defeat. Totally familiar yet utterly new.”
- “Castle” – Halsey. It’s hard not to feel like a wraithlike, untouchable demon-angel when Halsey is crooning, “Now my neck is open wide, begging for a fist around it / Already choking on my pride, so there’s no use crying about it” through your headphones. Her talent for bombastic professions of guilt — without actually sounding guilty, per say, or even pretentious — is formidable. Combine that with BADLANDS’ fractured, echoing sound and you can’t help but adopt her unapologetic messiness.
- “Go Fuck Yourself” – Two Feet. With such an aggressive song title, you’d expect this song to be more forthcoming. But it actually sneaks up on you, opening with a sort of seductive whisper that offsets the gritty reality of the lyrics (“Fucked and drank all night / I did all alright / Had no need to fight tonight, tonight”). But when the chorus drops and introduces the song’s true sound — glittering, bass-heavy, masterfully harmonic — it is revealed as the perfect soundtrack to any Saturday night hook-up.
- “wRoNg” – Zayn, Kehlani. Zayn’s forceful re-branding goes a little far at times on his debut album, but “wRoNg” employs his greatest strengths as a solo artist. It showcases his impressive, soaring range and offers an essential guest spot to Kehlani, whose honeyed voice effortlessly balances the brooding. It also offers a peek into the real artistic depth of the formerly pigeonholed “mysterious one” in a sugarcoated boy band — and Zayn’s hunger to convey real emotion is palpable on this track. His angst translates well.
- “Dangerous Woman” – Ariana Grande. Ariana Grande arguably boasts the most enviable vocals in music right now, and she could probably make any pop song work. But “Dangerous Woman” is not your average pop song, with or without Grande’s astronomical falsettos. It features a slow-burning, ballad-like structure; a vicious guitar solo; and a provocative, overtly sexual tone that is somehow simultaneously empowering. This song simmers at the right times and erupts in all the right places. While Ariana has a man to help her feel dangerous, we listeners have Ariana for the same effect.
Listen to the whole playlist here!