A collection of singles: my August favorites


Summer has a reputation for an explosion of new music. Yet, I wasn’t impressed with this year’s selection of songs that played on a constant loop on the radio. While I have an extremely diverse and mixed taste in music, the “summer bops” weren’t quite doing it for me. I’ll listen to anything from country to indie to pop. But, all of my favorite songs have a few commonalities: a soulful voice, an intoxicatingly catchy chorus, and a groovy beat.

Ruel’s new single “Face to Face” definitely has all these components; however, the thing I notice most is the way his voice works with music to create such a serene ambiance that you lose yourself to the ebb and flow of it. Beginning with an “Un, deux, trois,” the jazzy beat creates a relaxed, swingy melody. The song features an exquisite saxophone solo — not the harmonica solo I originally thought it to be, however far from the jailbird variety. 

Ruel’s voice, smooth as a violin, is full of longing desperation as he offers commentary on the social issue of internet relationships. “Face to Face” is about his need to meet this girl he adores in person but is stuck trying to make a connection through the emotionless and impersonal internet. While it isn’t as light as his other music, it stays true in sound and feel to his other music, including “Dazed and Confused,” his tour de force in my opinion.

The same couldn’t be said for Grace VanderWaal’s new single “Waste My Time” which also landed itself a spot on my August Favorites list. In the past, VanderWaal has experimented with songs with darker tones; yet, those songs always had a contradictory whimsical undertone. Not “Waste My Time.” Gone is the ukelele she used when she won her record deal singing “I Don’t Know My Name” on America’s Got Talent. This single, while a complete bop, holds a new level of maturity I have yet to hear from VanderWaal.

Not only has she chosen a more mature topic, but her voice has changed so much. While it still cracks and scrapes in the beautifully unique way that won her success in the beginning, it is much more controlled now. The unchecked rawness of VanderWaal’s voice seemed to give away her young age. But in “Waste My Time,” she uses those scrapes and cracks in a more refined and subtle way. 

 Dermot Kennedy is similar in those respects; I will never tire of his paradoxically hoarse and delicate voice. Whenever I grow sick from the mundane and repetitive songs on the radio, Kennedy is the fail-proof cure. I’ve grown into an avid follower and listener of this Irish-born singer, and he has yet to disappoint me. Because of Kennedy, I hold music to different standards. 

Recently, he released the single “Outnumbered” as well as the acoustic version that showcases his talents exceptionally well. By talents, I don’t just mean his unparalleled pipes. Kennedy has a gift for songwriting. Unlike most songs these days, his lyrics sound like poetry: flowery and full of emotion. Somehow in “Outnumbered,” Kennedy is able to combine pop music with soulful lyrics such as “I’m in love with how your souls a mix of chaos and heart and how you never try to keep them apart.”

Though less insightful, the final song on my August playlist is the acoustic version of “Peer Pressure” by James Bay; this particular rendition features Julia Michaels, a staff favorite. Their voices are so similar that when they come together, they create an airy, playful sound that matches the lovestruck message of the song.

Contrary to most monotonous acoustic songs, “Peer Pressure” grows and fall in a captivating way. Bay’s voice mimics the music by entering quiet and cautious and following it as it grows stronger and more self-assured. Michaels adding in is the final piece to develop the song into the masterpiece it is. I especially love the way it cuts off abruptly, almost like the way our summer ended. 

Throughout all of August, these songs have my playlist staples. Even a month later, I still love them and continue to add them to every playlist I make.