C: Jesse Grant/Getty Images for iHeartMedia
R: Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for BALMAIN
Let's put aside the matter of the Song of the Summer's whereabouts for a moment. Let's forget the fact that we're a year removed from a hit so infectious that people who don't speak Spanish managed to wrap their tongues around the phrase "deja que te diga cosas al oído." Ignore the fact that, as Ryan wrote last week, a 22-year-old soccer-chant single with two comedians as guest stars is the most ubiquitous song in the United Kingdom right now. Instead, we should be asking this: How have we all woken up on a Friday in the middle of July to three songs that collectively feature six bona fide pop stars and zero choruses?
Ariana Grande's new single, "God Is a Woman," was supposed to come out this time next week, but her team at Republic seemingly wanted an extra week of chart play in advance of next month's Sweetener. Written by Grande alongside Savan Kotecha and the Swedish superteam of Ilya Salmanzadeh, Max Martin, and Rickard Goransson, the song's less an empowerment anthem and more an awkward testament to being Good At Sex, a throwback to the Aguileraisms of the early-2000s: "Baby, lay me down and let's pray / I'm tellin' you the way I like it, how I want it." The key moments in the verse are based on Grande singing a two-note melody, seemingly building to something. But instead we get Grande singing, "You, you love it how I move you / You love it how I touch you," roughly following the dimly lit path of the verse.
Benny Blanco brought last summer's teen-prince Khalid and perennial earworm farmer Halsey in for "Eastside," and it makes for a more satisfying listen. Khalid can do a lot with a little, and Halsey's breathy voice tends to find some strange nooks. But they essentially trade verses off before joining in for a joint outro. And when they get there, they don't even harmonize, which seems like a wasted opportunity. It'll drift out of iPhone speakers into summer parks and everything will go on as before.
And then there's MØ and Diplo, both of whom have a seemingly innate talent for crafting big, bold drops and hate-that-you-love-them singalongs. Last time they got together, at the end of 2017, they put together an essentially instrumental climax that led to both of them grinning manically and throwing their limbs around an empty palace. "Sun In Our Eyes," the first single from the Danish singer's Forever Neverland, is a perfectly alright pop song—though I prefer oddball MØ to radio-ready MØ—and after a few plays the melody does start to catch nicely. But there's another level, one that these two normally find without really trying, that seems absent here. A few "la la la"s come in for the bridge, the type of thing that MØ would've turned up and used after a gargantuan club drop a couple years ago. Instead, we're left half a very good pop song.
There's always next week. In the meantime, I'll be sitting here idle, waiting for Carly Rae Jepsen to return.
Give Alex Robert Ross a goddamned chorus on Twitter.