Son Raw will take this place and turn it to a club.
As I write this, there are two hours left to Summer ’16, which hopefully means we never have to hear “One Dance” on the radio again and have all returned to caring about sports that don’t involve vaulting and air rifles. And while I don’t traffic much in declarative statements regarding the canonical importance of individual songs, I did have a song of the summer.
I’m calling it for Alkaline’s “Block & Delete” for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a fantastic pop song that didn’t reach pop radio, and subsequently, didn’t make anyone’s life miserable via overexposure. In the era of peak TV, too big to fail music, and a discourse of constant toxicity, singling out alternatives to “the conversation” is more important than ever. If it were up to me, everyone would have their own song of the summer, and this patois-rich dancehall kiss-off is mine.
Second, it plays with today’s more interesting musical memes while being blissfully unaware of the drab ones. For all of their faults, Rihanna, Biebs, and Drake have given dancehall its greatest shine since Sean Paul’s (brilliant) run, even if they sanded down the edges. But there’s no watered down Beenie Man samples here: Alkaline’s lyrics and melodies are enough to get Jeffery scrambling for the dictionary, and the beat is armed with an EDM-level sheen and plenty of bassweight without any of that genre’s moronic tendencies. Plus, unlike Blood Orange or Frank Ocean, there’s no jazzy pretentions or outreach to the super-ego. It’s pure ID all the way down.
Finally, in an age where any hint of criticism can send a demographic’s social-media squadrons into red alert, “Block and Delete” is unimpeachable in its dismissal of an unnamed female antagonist, which only makes it more savage. Alkaline doesn’t heap on the misogyny, or even put up resistance: he nah pressure nobody’s daughter, she can leave if she wan’ it, and his sole threat is to remove his ex-lover from his contacts and deny her any pics or videos of their summer together. It’s a realistic and sanguine reaction, “You’re so Vain” for an era where interpersonal conflict goes down amidst a context of heightened sensitivity and online abuse. It’s easily as close to zen as you’re likely to get over a dancehall riddim in 2016, and given that ‘Fall 17 might lead to the Trump era, we could all use a little bit of that.