Eddie on Aux: “16,” “Pristine” and others

Baby Keem sits on a rainbow colored deck overlooking the water.
Baby Keem’s latest track “16” will appear on his highly anticipated debut album, “The Melodic Blue,” along with 15 other songs. (Photo courtesy of Columbia Records)

“Eddie On Aux” is a biweekly series on a few songs that intrigue me. They don’t have to be earth-shattering or terrible, just something interesting enough to warrant writing about. It is not a recommendation of what to play in the car to impress your friends, despite what the title suggests. 

Baby Keem — “16”

Baby Keem and Kendrick Lamar are “range brothers’’ now, whatever that means. Lamar proved to the world that he, too, can become a meme, and Keem has the talent to be a crossover pop star, as he showed on “16,” the closing track of his debut album “The Melodic Blue.”

Over DJ Dahi’s danceable, yet nostalgic, production, Keem sings his heart out, crooning lines like, “Won’t you think about you and I/Just grab my hand and look me in the eye.” What’s missing in lyrical depth is made up for by Keem’s talent; he turns platitudes into a convincing argument. Though “16” doesn’t have quite the self-deprecation of a typical Juice WRLD song, one could imagine the late artist delivering the same sad-pop track.

This turn to pop is a good development for Keem’s musical outlook, whose discography so far has mostly alternated between boisterous raps and moody ballads. Lately, he’s been associating with Lamar more often, and the Compton rapper is featured on three of his songs. But Keem doesn’t need to emulate his cousin. He’s a solid lyricist in his own idiosyncratic way, and his appeal transcends genre. 

King Krule — “Out Getting Ribs” (live)

The London singer/producer/multi-instrumentalist born Archy Marshall has been one of the most tortured, inventive artists of the past decade. He was only 16 years old in 2010 when he wrote and released “Out Getting Ribs” to Bandcamp under the moniker Zoo Kid—because he was only a kid back then. But most teenagers don’t draw inspiration from Jean-Michel Basquiat, and most teenagers also don’t begin a song deadpanning, “And hate, runs through my blood.”

Most artists spend a lifetime developing a voice that comes instinctively to King Krule. His music reads like poetry, and it demands close listening. Over the years, he’s expanded his musicality to encompass lo-fi hip-hop, punk, jazz and any subgenre that has “-wave” in its name. This exploration of sound is Marshall’s method of finding new brushes to paint the same pictures — like the throes of a depressed psyche submerged in deep waters, or the hopeless youth stumbling around a bleak, gray cityscape. 

The live version of “Out Getting Ribs,” revisited 10 years later in concert, is even more satisfying than the album version. Without the artificial polish of a studio recording, the simple guitar riff that propels the song sounds even better, and the layers of drums and Ignacio Salvadores’ baritone saxophone adds an improvisational touch. Mostly, Marshall has a great feel for the environment, and lets the crowd pulse with the peaks and valleys of the timeless track.

Kanye West – “Life of The Party” (leak)

“Life of the Party” is an amazing song — it would’ve been one of the best tracks on “Donda” had it made the album, and it would’ve been one of the best songs Kanye West had made in his career. It features a signature Kanye flip of a soul sample, a rare appearance from André 3000 and a recording of DMX with his daughter that sounds like it came straight from his camera roll. West’s probably the only artist in the world that has the clout and range to collect these clips, like a despot obtaining fine jewels. 

But “Life of the Party” was left off “Donda,” supposedly because of Andre 3000’s feature that conflicted with West’s “no profanity” policy. Absurdly, André was the one who understood the assignment; he reaches deep and delivers a compelling verse of confession and questioning, one that seems genuinely dedicated to his late mother. The same can’t be said for West who gets sidetracked to take unnecessary shots at Drake. Ironically, if the two artists hadn’t continued their tiring and unnecessary beef, this song likely wouldn’t have come to light. 

Snail Mail – “Pristine”

Some people credit Olivia Rodrigo for making angsty punk popular again, introducing Gen-Z to the Avril Lavigne and Paramore types that were millennial favorites. Snail Mail, born Lindsey Jordan, takes from the same influences as Rodrigo, but with a bit more lo-fi and a little less gloss. Like Clairo, she makes indie rock that can also charade as bedroom pop. 

But, unlike some of her more well-known counterparts, Snail Mail is still working on finding the right audience. It won’t be long though — behind her guitar is a vulnerable, relatable personality. “Pristine” sounds personal, but also like it could’ve been written in any introverted college kid’s diary, slightly overwhelmed and tired from the social experience. “It just feels like the same party every weekend, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it?” Jordan sings. I’m sure some of us feel the same way.