Top 10 Songs of the Month: Childish Gambino, Pusha-T, Gorillaz, and Mitski

The summer is heating up with politics, rap beefs, and even some guitar slinging

Childish Gambino in "This Is America" Video
Childish Gambino in “This Is America” Video

After a winter that felt like it would last forever, it now feels like summer actually arrived early this year, and things are just beginning to heat up. The festival season is now in full swing, the year’s most anticipated releases are dropping left and right, and we even had a bona fide rap beef surface to ensure May went out with a bang. While all of this means long hours for us at CoS, for you it means enough good stories and tunes to fill your playlists again and again.

Here’s what we had spinnin’ on the regular in May.

–Matt Melis
Editorial Director


10. Nicky Jam – “Live It Up” featuring Will Smith and Era Istrefi

Release: Single available on Sony Music Latin

Okay, so we don’t particularly care about soccer any more than most Americans. It was fun when we were six and got orange slices at halftime, but most of us — except for that one cousin everyone’s got who wears a Manchester United jersey all the time — grew up and moved on. But let’s not forget that soccer is the global pastime, and there’s no bigger sporting stage in the world than the FIFA World Cup, which means Nicky Jam’s “Live It Up”, love it or lump it, will be one of the most-played songs from now until the final seconds of the World Cup tick down in mid-July. With more flavor than the tastiest Russian borscht and assists from Era Istrefi and Big Willie Style himself, this Diplo-produced banger will have you dancing up and down the pitch, even if you don’t know what a pitch is.–Matt Melis 


09. Nick Lutsko – “Jerry (Maybe We Should Get Married)” ft. Bethany Cosentino

Release: On YouTube from Super Deluxe

It’s not the ’80s anymore. Hell, not even the ’90s. But it seems that they live on in the form of Seinfeld reruns, no matter what the present year is. Parodies may not be as common after the height of “Weird Al” Yankovic and the like, but Nick Lutsko’s “Jerry (Maybe We Should Get Married)” is a true gem that deserves attention. Snippets of iconic character Elaine’s musings on romance are set to music and sung by Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino to create a bop that is both funny and endearing, much like the legendary show itself. –Clara Scott


08. Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks – “Shiggy”

Release: From Sparkle Hard, out now via Matador

A blend of grit and grandness, a hearty dose of fuzz-infused guitar, and an addictive rhythm that will seep deep into the veins is the ultimate formula for creating a damn good rock song, and it’s one that Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks proved to have down to a finite science on “Shiggy”, a standout track from their latest album, Sparkle Hard. The track exudes edge into the otherwise sonically light album, the band’s first in four years since the release of Wig Out at Jagbags. “Shiggy” doesn’t just hint at Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks’ harder side — it places it on clear display. –Lindsay Teske


07. Iceage – “Pain Killer” (feat. Sky Ferreira)

Release: From Beyondless, out now via Matador

With its entrancing, psychedelic undercurrent and brassy flourishes aplenty, Danish rockers Iceage masterfully craft a grandiose soundscape in “Pain Killer”, a single from their fourth studio album, Beyondless. The album is the band’s first since 2014’s Plowing into the Field of Love, and “Pain Killer” is just one of the tracks that reminds us why Iceage’s new work was so well worth the wait. Bleeding endless cool, “Pain Killer” finds its flair in nuance. Background vocals from artist Sky Ferreira, bold percussion, and guitar riffs that fuse style and sting all serve as contributing factors that make the track command the attention of the ear — and it does so effortlessly. –Lindsay Teske


06. Gorrillaz – “Humility”

Release: From The Now Now, out June 29th via Parlophone

Gorillaz fans are used to extended waits, so it came as quite a shock earlier this week when the band announced that their next album, The Now Now, would be coming out in late June, a little more than a year removed from their last multi-media project, Humanz. It was all the more surprising then when news of a North American Tour and another installment of Demon Dayz Festival emerged today, along with a new music video and two brand-new tracks. Head ape Damon Albarn has described the pending album as a “summer record” with songs that’ll feature his voice up front in the mix. The video for single “Humility” surely bears him out as we skateboard along the beach with 2-D (Albarn’s virtual alter ego) to a laid-back ocean-side groove as a busking Jack Black tags along. Don’t be surprised if you’re humming this nonstop until the full album drops in a month. –Matt Melis


05. Jorja Smith – “February 3rd”

Release: From Lost & Found, out June 8th via FAMM

Jorja Smith is set to be one of the year’s breakout stars in R&B, and nothing demonstrates her beauty and power better than the song “February 3rd”, off Smith’s debut album, Lost and Found. The singer’s soulful, breathy voice meshes perfectly with laid-back, mellow instrumental beats to create a truly chill vibe. Smith’s vocals are reminiscent of classic artist Sade’s, if only higher — the newcomer has a similar tone and relaxing, deeply moving intention to everything she sings. Watch out for Smith as she rises, because this artist is here to stay. –Clara Scott


04. Lykke Li – “Deep End”

Release: From So Sad So Sexy, out June 8th via RCA

After the success of her last LP, I Never Learn, Lykke Li has come back with a vengeance with singles off of her upcoming album, So Sad So Sexy, due June 8th. Unlike the melancholy musings of her last record, Li is notably more jovial and electronic-based on single “Deep End”, a collection of hypnotic beats and poetic, almost unintelligible lyrics that fuse together in harmony. Though the only thing you may remember from this song is the chorus, it’s almost a guarantee that “Deep End” will be stuck in your head for days and days. –Clara Scott


03. Mitski – “Geyser”

Release: From Be the Cowboy, out August 17th via Dead Oceans

Following the success of her 2016 album Puberty 2, Mitski makes a monumental return with the release of “Geyser”, the leading single from her forthcoming album, Be the Cowboy. A hypnotic nexus between the beautiful and the bold, “Geyser” showcases Mitski’s natural flair for producing refreshingly raw lyrics and pairs it with compelling musical climaxes. The result? A final product that can only be described as epic. –Lindsay Teske


02. Rap Beef: Pusha T vs. Drake

Release: “Infrared”, out now on DAYTONA from Def Jam; “Duppy Freestyle” and “The Story of Adidon” available at fine diss track stores everywhere

Any night that’s going to see an early album drop from Pusha T with Kanye West on production will be a restless night of streaming, downloading, and dissecting over the course of first, second, and seventh listens. Last Thursday night was exactly so, but little did we expect that Pusha had buried deep in the seventh track of the lean, 21-minute DAYTONA the opening salvo to perhaps this decade’s top heavyweight rap beef. With a long history of disses between them, Pusha likens Drake to Trump, calling out his legitimacy and suggesting that he’s benefited from ghost writing. Maybe equally shocking was that Drake fired back the very next day with “Duppy Freestyle”, a track-long put-down of both Pusha and West. It’s absolutely scathing, and to add insult to disses, Drake even invoiced G.O.O.D Music $100,000 for “promotional assistance and career reviving.” Not to be outdone, Pusha responded with “The Story of Adidon”, which accused Drake of being a deadbeat “baby daddy,” featured a real photo of Drake in black face as the single’s artwork, and promised him a full summer of pain. Damn, even vegetarians can’t get enough of this beef. –Matt Melis


01. Childish Gambino – “This Is America”

Release: Non-album release available now from RCA

In a time when leadership is in short supply, voices can emerge from the most unlikely of places. Enter Childish Gambino (aka actor and comedian Donald Glover), who has largely been maligned over the years for his nerdy raps and viewed as more of a comedian than a legit emcee. But with one song — and a music video that college students will be writing thesis papers on — Gambino reminded us of the black experience in America: joyful one moment and tragically cut short the next due to a ever-brewing storm of chaos, racism, and violence, all while distractions from the trauma and injustice are easy to find. Our publication has a history of awarding Song of the Year to artists whose work shines an uncomfortable light on our culture. It’s hard to believe any other song this year will get us talking and shaking our heads more than Gambino’s. –Matt Melis