Song of the Week: Noname Breaks Down What It Means to Be Real in “Song 31”

Sharon Van Etten, Future, and Ex Hex also highlight this week's definitive playlist

Noname change Room 25 artwork because Bryant Giles allegations

Each week we break down our favorite song, highlight our honorable mentions, and wrap them all up with other staff recommendations into a playlist just for you. 

Nothing says neo-soul like Noname. On January 2nd, she posted the cover of the “Song 31” single on Twitter and retweeted it with the caption: “When you arguing wit yo homies over whether or not I can rap, send them this.” The rapper has already proven herself several times over with Telefone and Room 25, but she’s right that “Song 31” propels her talents into a whole new light. She tackles issues of profit and authenticity at rapid speed, relinquishing neither her economy of time nor her trademark soft, jazz-inspired vocals. At the chorus, the straightforward rap eclipses into a dream-tinged reflection, courtesy of Phoelix. Brimming with shrewd cultural critique (“What’s a casket to a holding cell if a n**** ain’t in it?”), “Song 31” is packaged around a steady backbeat and, in the wake of Room 25, illuminates yet another creative side of the genre-defining powerhouse that is Noname.



Sharon Van Etten – “Seventeen”

Sharon Van Etten ramps up the buildup to her swiftly approaching next album with “Seventeen” a city-forlorn ode that captures what happens when grown-up realism meets nostalgia with lines like, “I used to be free/ I used to be seventeen.” –Laura Dzubay

Future – “Crushed Up”

Future makes being rich sound ice-cool in “Crushed Up”, a quick track that celebrates “plain janes” and “foreigns in the driveway” without losing track of the soft, steady beat and the rapper’s signature loose vocals. –Laura Dzubay

Lana Del Rey – “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have – but i have it”

“Hope is a dangerous thing…” is confined to just Lana Del Rey’s voice and an occasional piano, leaving all the focus on Del Rey and her self-examination: Where her approach to sadness and happiness is often shrouded in aesthetic, here she reproaches these distractions, swapping out “24/7 Sylvia Plath” in favor of an honest consideration of what despair and hope mean to her. –Laura Dzubay

Ex Hex – “Cosmic Cave”

“Cosmic Cave” is a spirited burst of energy from Ex Hex, setting the buildup to their sophomore album in motion with a guitar-driven, pep-in-your-step interstellar joyride that beckons the listener to join in on the fun. –Laura Dzubay

Stella Donnelly – “Old Man”

The melody of Stella Donnelly’s “Old Man” is playful, but the subject matter is anything but: Rich with the triumphs of “Time’s Up,” the song is full of all-too-satisfying reproaches and promises that any man who “[grabs] with an open hand” is going to find the world “grabbing back.” –Laura Dzubay

Black Pistol Fire  – “Level”

Black Pistol Fire levels up in their first single since 2017’s Deadbeat Graffiti, countering adversity (“It couldn’t come at a worse time, used up all my lifelines”) with indomitable energy and a rock-infused will. –Laura Dzubay

Nick Waterhouse – “Song for Winners”

Catchy from the start, “Song for Winners” is what it sounds like, making full use of its saxophone solos and gravelly vocals and showcasing only the best of Nick Waterhouse’s skills in rhythm and blues and road-trip-ready guitar. –Laura Dzubay

Billie Eilish  “When I Was Older”

Young singer-songwriter Billie Eilish sneaks up on her listeners in this Roma-inspired track, letting a hushed beat and barely whispered vocals grow into an electronically realized portrait of dread and sympathy. –Laura Dzubay

Girlpool  “What Chaos Is Imaginary”

“What Chaos Is Imaginary” works like a dream for LA duo Girlpool, with both the melody and the lyrics getting at the same kind of transience and the entire track blooming with choral synchrony and atmospheric gleam. –Laura Dzubay


This Week’s Playlist


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