Song of the Week: Jack White Lets Loose on “What’s the Trick?”

Charlie Hickey, S.G. Goodman, and Horsegirl also dropped essential tracks

Jack White Whats the Trick
Jack White, photo by Paige Sara

    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, Jack White lets loose on “What’s the Trick?”

    Jack White is nothing if not ambitious.

    The former frontman of The White Stripes has a penchant for the odd, the atonal, and the avant-garde — the man just likes to get weird with his music, at the end of the day. His new album, Fear of the Dawn, inhabits that same risky space that keeps listeners coming back to see what he’s trying next. While not every big swing leads to a payoff on the album, it’s hard to deny the raw energy of “What’s the Trick?”

    The track is anchored by a steady guitar riff and offset by White’s speak-singing. It’s a high-energy monologue that reads more like a neatly organized poem when the lyrics are laid out on paper, far more organized than the song feels on first listen. There are stanzas, a rhyme scheme, and (most critically) all the existential desperation that makes for an interesting poet. “If I die tomorrow, what did I do today?/ You want fresh air?/ You won’t find it this way,” he says with earned dramatics.


    Here, even more than some other parts of the album, the presence of so many Jack Whites is crystal clear. He wrote the song, played the drums, guitar, bass, and additional percussion, acted as the co-sound engineer, and then had a hand in the mixing. Everything went down at his home base of Third Man Records in Nashville, his beloved studio and record shop on a dingy, otherwise forgotten block of the city. This, most of all, feels right — White pays no mind to what’s trendy, or sleek, or polished. He’s going to make the art he wants to make.

    — Mary Siroky
    Contributing Editor

    Honorable Mentions:

    Horsegirl – “World of Pots and Pans”

    Chicago-based trio Horsegirl are on the verge of boiling over. Quickly swooped up by Matador, nabbing festival spots and taking home the Gulke Prize for Developing U.S. Act at South By Southwest, Horsegirl’s pot is sufficiently unwatched and left on high. “World of Pots and Pans,” taken from the group’s upcoming debut LP, finds Horsegirl serving up another helping of fuzzed out, 90s-influenced indie rock.

    It’s three minutes of well-crafted, well-studied rock music, as the band slips in lyrical and sonic references to Belle & Sebastian, Gang of Four, and The Pastels. Along with their two previous pre-album singles, all signs point to Horsegirl making a grand, celebratory entrance with their first full-length project. — Jonah Krueger

    Florist – “Red Bird Pt. 2 (Morning)”

    Florist’s Emily Sprague is no stranger to imbuing her songs with a certain transcendental nature. On “Red Bird Pt. 2 (Morning),” though, she, along with the rest of Florist, have captured a new level of magic. The four-piece recorded the track in a screened in porch, allowing the sounds of nature to accompany Florist in real time. Listen for the birds singing along as Sprague delivers lyrics equal parts devastating and life-affirming. — J.K.


    Sad Night Dynamite – “Tramp”

    Sad Night Dynamite’s multi-dimensional, stylized approach puts them entirely in their own lane. Their new track “Tramp,” which comes from their mixtape Sad Night Dynamite: Vol. II (out today), is built from thumping piano and a trotting, trip-hop groove, but as always, there’s something about the song that intentionally feels off.

    They’re constantly pitted between embracing the darkness that populates their spooky, almost gothic production and aesthetic or rejecting it entirely — and each song they release seems to investigate this tension more and more. There’s something both comforting and unsettling about “Tramp,” and it’s clear that Sad Night Dynamite are keen on striking that unique balance in each and every song. — Paolo Ragusa

    Maryze – “Emo”

    “Did you ever listen to the songs I sent to you?” asks Montreal-based pop artist Maryze on her new track, “Emo.” She sings the phrase multiple times, each time sounding a bit removed — like the question is simply rhetorical, and of course, she knows the answer is “no.” But throughout “Emo,” Maryze appropriately gets her vengeance, cranking up the volume and launching into a nostalgic, ‘90s era alt rock chorus. It’s an introduction to the singer’s grittier side while still remaining catchy and unique, and it demonstrates Maryze’s urgent need to stand up and be heard. — P.R.