Earl Sweatshirt, Madonna, Sam Smith: this week’s new tracks rated and slated

In the Guide single reviews no one is safe, especially “surplus to requirements” Emile Sandé

Earl Sweatshirt Feat Budgie & Samiyam
Quest/Power (via Soundcloud)

It’s Early like a schoolnight,” begins Sweatshirt, introducing himself, but really this song feels more like one of those Sunday mornings where you get up early, make a list and start accomplishing things. Producer Budgie is best known for his collection of amateur gospel recordings, which he layers to create a sort of godly hip-hop and works well here as this song is about finding solace at the end of a smoky haze, leaving behind the hi-jinks and tye-dye socks and becoming proactive. Or, as Earl puts it: “Not like I’m lounging on the bench, get up out and get your shit, find some power in yourself.” Preach.

Madonna
Living For Love (Interscope)

You know when you go to a restaurant that you used to love but it’s changed owner, and now the meat is sweaty, the sauces are pustular and the staff are weird, and you’re like: screw this place, we’re never coming here again. Then a year later you forget about it and end up back at the same restaurant, eating the same crappy food? That is every time Madonna has come back since 2001.

Kelly Clarkson
Heartbeat Song (RCA)

Kelly Clarkson is like the Black+Decker drill your dad gave you 10 years ago. Sure, it’s not got as many settings as some of the newer models, but you only use it a couple of times a year, and when you do, it does the job. This sounds exactly as you’d expect it to: infectious chorus, functional production, a key-changed chorus at the end. It won’t reinvent the wheel, but it will let you put up a bracket for a free-standing shelf.

Sam Smith
Lay Me Down (Capital)

Sam Smith is young, British, talented and, let’s not forget, openly gay and a bit on the bigger side. The fact that he won basically every award to win at the Grammys should feel like a victory for you and me, Guardian readers. So why does this song – a re-recording of his debut single – leave me so cold? It purports to be an outpouring of heartbreak, yet feels cynical, like when 30 Rock’s Tracy Jordan releases Hard To Watch, an Oscar-bait film that exists only to be respected and unenjoyable. I think I preferred it when the best that our country had to offer to the rest of the world was Genesis and the services industry.

David Guetta Feat Emeli Sandé
What I Did For Love (Parlophone/Warners)

One good thing about the dawn of Smith, however, is that it raises a big question mark over the purpose of Emeli Sandé. Yes, she shot to fame during the Olympics as a sort of supply-teacher Adele, but now we have Smith and Sheeran and soon actual Adele, she’s sort-of surplus to requirements. Perhaps that’s why she’s now making Guetta piano-house: the musical equivalent of putting all your savings in a two-year ISA, in the sense that both give you some security for the future but offer a spectacularly low yield.

Read more from this week’s Guide

Contributor

Sam Wolfson

The GuardianTramp

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