Song of the Week breaks down and talks about the song we just can’t get out of our head each week. Find these songs and more on our Spotify Top Songs playlist. For our favorite new songs from emerging artists, check out our Spotify New Sounds playlist. This week, Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder takes on R.E.M. for the new drama Flag Day.
A flag is more than cloth and dye. A flag is a symbol — a vessel of fear or hope — weighed down and lifted up by the actions of everything done in its name. Some of that fickle glory has rubbed off on Sean Penn’s character in his new film Flag Day, a solemn drama getting mixed reviews.
But in judging the cultural impact, we won’t just look at the script, or the acting, or the sometimes bizarre statements the leading man has made when he’s ostensibly promoting the flick. Like those fluttering silk symbols, Flag Day is the sum of every action taken on its behalf. Which is how we arrive at the official Flag Day soundtrack, a remarkable collection of songs far better than this sort of project usually deserves.
Cat Power contributed three original cuts, and the great Glen Hansard collaborated with Eddie Vedder to pen some striking new songs, especially album standout “Flag Day” and the reflective “My Father’s Daughter,” sung by Vedder’s daughter, Olivia. But the arc of the album bends towards one moment — a mere cover, the umpteenth version of a track that has been sung almost as many times as The Star-Spangled Banner — and yet, like a bit of simple cloth and dye, it packs a surprising amount of emotion into a well-worn shape.
Vedder’s version of R.E.M.’s classic song “Drive” is faithful and moving, as one of the greatest frontmen of his generation relies on restraint and understatement and resists the urge to bellow. The song works because of the many different inflections he puts into the word “baby,” his stutter on “what” when he sings, “Nobody tells you what to do,” and a growl that sounds like the sigh of a mountain on those weighty, repeated, “Tick… Tocks…”
You might never see Flag Day, you might hate Sean Penn, but even so, you can be thankful that such a production led to this breathtaking moment.
— Wren Graves
Petticoat – “Get Loose!”
Ridiculously infectious, “Get Loose!” is an ’80s synth dream from rising pop artist Petticoat. The vibes are simply immaculate: a danceable beat, unusual vocal samples, and glossy production come together with snappy melodic hooks. It’s a recipe for success. Petticoat, whose real name is David Halsey, seems plucked from the Los Angeles of yesteryear, rather than the one in which he currently resides. “Get Loose” is the first single ahead of his upcoming EP and ends just a little too quickly. It’s not easy to leave the world he’s designed within the track. — Mary Siroky
Hana Vu – “Everybody’s Birthday”
You know that feeling when it’s your birthday and you suddenly realize that very few people, if any, care about your birthday the same way you do? You’re happy and carefree one moment, but then out of nowhere you’re overwhelmed by a rush of loneliness, despair, and a keen sense of the absurd?
That’s the feeling Hana Vu taps into on her towering new single “Everybody’s Birthday,” off of her upcoming album Public Storage. Over crunchy drums and moody retro synths, Vu elegantly circumscribes this fundamental predicament, that oftentimes it’s precisely when everything is supposed to be bright and beautiful that our thoughts will end up in the darkest places. — Curtis Sun
Sad Night Dynamite, IDK – “Psychedelic Views”
Sad Night Dynamite’s new track “Psychedelic Views” — which features an excellent verse from rising Maryland rapper IDK — is a perfect introduction to what the UK duo does best. Though they may “dream of psychedelic views” and they “fall apart every day,” the duo describe absence within excess and the moment of being frozen in motion. They both lament their current condition and habits, and then at the same time, describe themselves as “blessed” and are still buying sports cars to celebrate.
The perfectly melancholy Spanish guitar riff and reverb-drenched synth lines that populate the song help to drive this dichotomy home: sometimes things feel really good, until you wake up and realize you’ve never felt more alone. — Paolo Ragusa
Jeremy Zucker – “Cry with you”
Jeremy Zucker is able to inhabit an incredibly familiar space. His songs often feel like they sprung from the pages of a diary or long text to a friend, and his latest, “Cry with you,” is no different. It’s the equivalent of Zucker reaching out to take your hand, a gentle, barely-there gesture. He’s very adept at creating what could be dubbed comfort tracks and keeps just enough of a personal touch to ensure his work doesn’t fall into the generic. Spend a moment and recharge with him today. — M.S.
JoJo – “Worst (I Assume)”
JoJo lets her paranoia get the best of her on her latest single, which sits right in the sweet spot of her famous register, and is the first taste of her upcoming EP Trying Not to Think About It. “I keep assuming/ You’re gonna do shit that might break my heart/ So I keep up my guard and I/ Know it’s confusing/ How I put you through it/ My past and my scars still make it hard,” she sings on the mid-tempo R&B jam, proving that the urge to self-sabotage takes continual work to overcome. But hey, at least recognizing it is the first step, right? — Glenn Rowley